Non-profit

Voter Engagement Evaluation Project (VEEP)

Type:

Voter Registration Donor Collaborative

Project of:

Proteus Fund

Funders Committee for Civic Participation (NEO Philanthropy)

The Voter Engagement Evaluation Project (VEEP) was a donor collaborative which funneled grants to left-wing voter registration and mobilization groups. VEEP was  co-sponsored by the Proteus Fund and Funders Committee for Civic Participation, a donor affinity group for major center-left funders (itself a project of NEO Philanthropy). The group was active during the 2004 and 2006 general elections.

Background

According to an interview co-authored by the Alliance for Justice and Council on Foundations conducted in 2004 (and published in 2008) with then-Proteus Fund president Meg Gage, the Proteus Fund ran a Voter Engagement Donor Network in 2006 composed of “some 140 funders . . . who shared information and advanced voter mobilization initiatives in a nonpartisan setting.”  (All 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofits are required to remain nonpartisan, though not non-ideological, to maintain their tax-exempt status with the IRS.) Gage noted that “there was a much higher level of foundation support for nonpartisan voter engagement activity” in the 2004 presidential election than in previous elections. Gage praised the left-wing Center for Community Change (CCC) for ” partnering effectively when they brought their resources to local groups already on the ground and greatly strengthened voter engagement efforts there.” [1]

Following the 2004 election, Proteus Fund and FCCP created the Voter Engagement Evaluation Project (VEEP), a project designed to evaluate the effectiveness of left-wing foundations’ support for voter mobilization and registration efforts in the election. [2]

Voter Engagement Analysis

2005 Report

In June 2005, VEEP published a report entitled “Top Ten Lessons for Funders Regarding 501(c)(3) Voter Engagement Work Conducted During the 2004 Election Cycle” (archived here). [3] The report, authored by political activists Heather Booth and Stephanie Firestone, offered ten lessons to left-wing foundations on supporting voter registration efforts:

1. Effective voter contact is up close and personal
2. Build it (strategically) and they will come
3. Voter engagement is part of a permanent campaign
4. Ready, set, plan
5. Voter files are the fuel that drives voter contact
6. Voter protection must be front loaded
7. Repeat the message, then repeat the message
8. Collaboration demands more than good will
9. “Tech”ing it to the streets
10. A ruler is an important but limited measuring stick

VEEP’s 2005 report concluded that an effective voter engagement strategy incorporates voter registration, education, “protection,” and get-out-the-vote activities to increase overall turnout. The report recommended the use of paid canvassers instead of volunteers. The report measured the effectiveness of “pre-tested messages focused largely on empowerment” aimed at unmarried women. Those messages emphasized “healthcare, pay equity, and retirement security.

The report noted that “education about issues can encourage people to vote,” writing: [4]

Many issue organizations report that they got engaged in voter work because they are tired of losing policy battles. Elected officials are more responsive to constituencies that vote, enabling these constituencies to move public policy and increase accountability on issues. Voters, particularly those from disenfranchised communities, need to see that voting translates into collective power and impact. Relationships established with new and infrequent voters should be nurtured, and follow-up contact should clearly connect voter engagement, policy/issues and community priorities. This should be a seamless flow, minimizing the current boom/bust cycle of elections (emphasis added).

According to the report, FCCP and Proteus Fund consulted the following individuals during the writing of the report:

2006 Follow-Up Report

VEEP published a follow-up report in January 2006 offering further analysis of the 2004 election (available here). The report’s authors were Proteus Fund president Meg Gage, Arca Foundation executive director Donna Edwards, and Carnegie Corporation program officer Geri Mannion. [5]

The 2006 report acknowledged the wariness many foundations hold for engaging in “voter engagement activities”:

Funders sometimes are concerned about support of civic/voter engagement activities because they are political and therefore can be perceived as partisan. In fact, foundations can (and should) support nonpartisan civic/voter engagement activities, and nonprofits can (and should) integrate nonpartisan civic/voter engagement activities into their ongoing mission and work. Our democracy demands the attention and engagement of all Americans, and nonprofits are particularly critical to providing the means for educating and motivating Americans
to get engaged.

The report offered three approaches for “driving effective nonpartisan voter engagement field work” in future elections:

  1. Integrating nonpartisan electoral work with constituency and/or issue organizing;
  2. Effective use of voter files to enhance field operations; and
  3. Increased coordination of voter engagement activity.

The report itself was the product of a June 2005 conference hosted by the FCCP to discuss future strategies for funding voter engagement efforts on the Left. The report noted the list of conference attendees as the following: [6]

Funding

VEEP’s 2006 report was funded with grants from the Bauman Family Foundation, Beldon Fund, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Ford Foundation, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, Open Society Foundations, and JEHT Foundation. [7]

Leadership

VEEP’s advisory committee was composed of Patricia Bauman of the Bauman Family Foundation; Heather Booth of the Proteus Fund; Elizabeth Collaton of the Stern Family Fund; Kristen Engberg of the JEHT Foundation; Allison Fine of the E-Volve Foundation; Ima Gonzalez of the Proteus Fund; and Bill Roberts of the Beldon Fund. [8]

References

  1. Nan Aron and Steve Gunderson. “Words to Give By: Leading Voices in Advocacy Funding.” Bolder Giving. 2008. Accessed July 2, 2019. Original URL: https://www.bolderadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Words_to_Give_By.pdf. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Words-to-Give-By.-Bolder-Advocacy.-02.2003.pdf.
  2. Nan Aron and Steve Gunderson. “Words to Give By: Leading Voices in Advocacy Funding.” Bolder Giving. 2008. Accessed July 2, 2019. Original URL: https://www.bolderadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Words_to_Give_By.pdf. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Words-to-Give-By.-Bolder-Advocacy.-02.2003.pdf.
  3. Heather Booth, Stephanie Firestone. “PROTEUS FUND and the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation: VOTER ENGAGEMENT EVALUATION PROJECT (VEEP).” Proteus Fund. June 2005. Accessed July 2, 2019. Original URL: http://www.factservices.org/DLs/FACT_FunderTop10Lessons.pdf. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Proteus-Fund-and-the-Funders-Committee-06.2005.pdf
  4. Heather Booth, Stephanie Firestone. “PROTEUS FUND and the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation: VOTER ENGAGEMENT EVALUATION PROJECT (VEEP).” Proteus Fund. June 2005. Accessed July 2, 2019. Original URL: http://www.factservices.org/DLs/FACT_FunderTop10Lessons.pdf. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Proteus-Fund-and-the-Funders-Committee-06.2005.pdf
  5. “Funders Committee for Civic Participation and Proteus Fund report on the Voter Engagement Evaluation Project.” Proteus Fund. January 2006. Accessed July 2, 2019. Original URL: https://funderscommittee.org/files/files/media/resources/VEEP-FINAL.pdf. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Proteus-Fund-FCCP-Voter-Engagement-Evaluation-Project-2006.pdf.
  6. “Funders Committee for Civic Participation and Proteus Fund report on the Voter Engagement Evaluation Project.” Proteus Fund. January 2006. Accessed July 2, 2019. Original URL: https://funderscommittee.org/files/files/media/resources/VEEP-FINAL.pdf. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Proteus-Fund-FCCP-Voter-Engagement-Evaluation-Project-2006.pdf.
  7. “Funders Committee for Civic Participation and Proteus Fund report on the Voter Engagement Evaluation Project.” Proteus Fund. January 2006. Accessed July 2, 2019. Original URL: https://funderscommittee.org/files/files/media/resources/VEEP-FINAL.pdf. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Proteus-Fund-FCCP-Voter-Engagement-Evaluation-Project-2006.pdf.
  8. “Funders Committee for Civic Participation and Proteus Fund report on the Voter Engagement Evaluation Project.” Proteus Fund. January 2006. Accessed July 2, 2019. Original URL: https://funderscommittee.org/files/files/media/resources/VEEP-FINAL.pdf. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Proteus-Fund-FCCP-Voter-Engagement-Evaluation-Project-2006.pdf.

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Donna Edwards
    Officer/Board Member
  2. Meg Gage
    Report Author
  3. Geri Mannion
    Report Author
  4. Heather Booth
    Advisory Board Member
  5. Patricia Bauman
    Advisory Board Member
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