As someone who had to wait three years and 11 months after turning 18 to vote in my first Presidential election, you better believe an election does not go by without me getting my “I voted” sticker—and that includes all state and local elections, too. When I first had the opportunity to vote, the personal importance of the event was purely that I was exercising my right as an American to influence the people who represented me in Congress.
At that time, I was voting for “me,” the individual. I wasn’t thinking about which candidate had policies that aligned with my broader identity or life as a college student. I voted for the candidate I personally felt I agreed with more on the “big issues".
What Voting Means to Me Now
Now, many years later, I see voting very differently. Not only because my personal and political views have evolved, but because I now have a very different life: I work a 40-hour week for a national nonprofit, I am married, and I am now financially secure. All of these have had a significant impact on what voting means to me.
It’s no longer about the candidate who agrees with me on a few big issues, but what that candidate’s platform/view is on the issues that affect me daily. Often, those issues aren’t the ones that are broadly known in a candidate’s platform. Have any of you heard a single candidate during the many debates talk about nonprofit tax exemption? Of course not, and that’s because it’s not a “mainstream” issue, at least not according to the media asking the questions.
For example, as a nonprofit employee, the Affordable Care Act has a different impact on my organization than it does a for-profit company. There are many policies that focus on how nonprofits are structured, which directly impacts the day-to-day work of my job. Recently the Department of Labor put out a proposal to expand compensation for certain staff that work over 40 hours a week, which prompted my employer to reevaluate how I account for my time and duties.
The Nonprofit Revolution
According to a study done by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, the nonprofit sector is the third largest workforce in the country behind only the retail and manufacturing industries. This is clearly the year of the traditionally unheard voices standing up and speaking out, why not capitalize on the momentum of many of the campaigns out there and start our own Nonprofit Revolution?
I cannot imagine the voting power that our sector would have if we united as a voting block to urge lawmakers to pass legislation that supports the nonprofit sector (#unstoppable).
Rebecca Vucic is a guest blogger for YNPNdc and works in the public policy department of a national nonprofit. She is actively involved in Nonprofit Vote.