Nonprofit organizations stay away from politics, but that does not mean that nonprofit volunteers and staff should stay away from the political process. So on the day after the North Carolina Primary election I wandered down Main Street in the Land of Lost Board Members. As usual, the early morning crowd had gathered at the coffee shop to dissect the election outcomes. Some folks had backed candidates who had lost their races and some had backed those who had won. There were discussions about various issues that had been placed on the ballot. All in all, it was much the same conversation that had taken place throughout the country after each state primary.
Some of my nonprofit friends were talking about their role in the recent election. It was enough to hear that they had been involved in the election to make my head spin. Didn’t they know better? Haven’t they learned anything about their roles? And that’s just what I said to them as they huddled around a table in the back of the shop. I was in great form. I was righteous. I found I didn’t have a leg to stand on.
“Calm down,” said my friend, Cash Now, CPA of the nonprofits. “We know what we can and can’t do. We all wanted to be involved so we found a great way.” They all nodded.
My friend, Al Truistini, our local philosophically liberal donor patted my arm and explained, “We worked at the polls. Isn’t that a great way to be involved? It was a heartwarming day.”
Cash continued, “I helped a young woman who had just become a citizen vote for the first time. She came in with her husband. He had finished voting quickly at his machine and stood across the room and watched as she worked through the ballot consulting her notes. The new voters are so thrilled when they work through the ballot and hear the machine printer record their votes. Its times like that I think those machines should play a tune and shoot off sparklers.”
Al interrupted. “I worked with a very feeble woman who had to be helped to the voting machines. We even had to bring a chair for her to sit as she scrolled through the ballots. Technology doesn’t deter a serious voter. They catch on quick and always seem eager to have us poll workers leave so they can get on with the process.”
“And all those folks who carried sample ballots and notes to make sure they got their candidates right. Do you know what that means?” Cash looked at us. “ It means they prepared for the election. They may have searched websites, consulted with friends or attended forums to listen to candidates answer questions about the issues.”
“What about the Moms and Dads who brought their children along? I was touched. What a great way to teach that voting is important.” Said Mr. Joshua Biggly Huge, philanthropist and antigovernment conservative voter.
“And I was helping at the “Kids Voting” Table,” chimed in Bella Pelorizado, nonprofit consultant and news columnist. “Those kids all had opinions. You could tell they had studied about the election in school and heard their parents talk about it.”
“It was very uplifting, agreed Joshua Biggly Huge. “I had the privilege of helping a blind woman vote a curbside ballot. It made me think about how important voting was to so many people. I watched handicapped and elderly people come to the polls in spite of infirmities. They were so committed to our democratic process. Many bragged that they never missed an opportunity to vote. It was an inspiration.”
“And those kids,” said Al Truistini, “the ones who were voting just for the first or second time – so young and so serious.”
“I know what you mean,” said Cash, “I am a One Stop Warrior. I’ve worked at one of the early voting sites for several weeks. I saw my share of people with health restrictions make their way to vote. I saw Moms bring baby carriages. I saw young men and women of every color in our community come in to cast ballots.”
The gang seemed very pleased with themselves and were enjoying the camaraderie that grows from a job well done. Then Bella shouted, “And we got paid!”
“I’m giving my check to No Nukes is Good Nukes,” said some one.
“Well, I’m turning my check over to Nukes Are Nice.” Came a reply. The discussion deteriorated to slogans and name calling.
Cash Now led me from the table and whispered, “It’s the morning after and we’re right back where we were yesterday.” He patted my arm and added, “but we all voted.”
May 2008 Voting for Nonprofits