Friday, February 26, 2010

February 25th's webinar

Thank you to all of you who attended yesterday's webinar "Countdown to the Census," with Robynne Curlee and Terri Ann Lowenthal.

Our next webinar will be held Thursday, March 18th at 2:00pm Eastern Time. The exact title and subject matter are still under discussion, but we'll update you when we know more.

We appreciated your questions yesterday. Please don't hesitate to contact any of us with further questions. Our contact information is as follows:

Terri Ann Lowenthal
Legislative & Policy Consultant
phone: 203-353-4364

Bridgette Rongitsch
National Director
Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network
phone: 651-757-3085

Robynne Curlee
National Outreach Coordinator
Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network
phone: 651-757-3086

You can download yesterday's PowerPoint presentation here.

You can also download our previous webinar on filling out the census form. In this webinar Terri Ann Lowethal walks us through the Census form and also deals with a host of questions about the kind of assistance it is permissible to give to your clients. In addition, you can download the audio portion of the presentation as a MP3. Or you can view the presentation online.

We mentioned several other resources yesterday.

Websites: - our website for nonprofits about the 2010 Census. - the official US Census Bureau 2010 Census website, which boasts an enourmous number of materials including the in language assistance guides (scroll down the page) we mentioned during the webinar. - this site is an amazing resource for information from the Census about your neighborhood, including detailed information on hard to count factors. This site will also report in mailback response rates. We held an entire webinar recently on how to use this site. View the presentation online.

Please note that the Questionnaire Assistance Center finder site is not yet available.

The Census Form:
Those of you who would like to download a sample of the Census form can do so on our site or on the official Census site.

Don't forget that the real forms will begin to arrive in the mail in mid March! And that the Census would like people to return the form by April 1st (although it will continue to accept forms until mid April).

Assistance phone numbers:
English: 1-866-872-6868
Spanish: 1-866-928-2010
Chinese: 1-866-935-2010
Korean: 1-866-955-2010
Vietnamese: 1-866-945-2010
Russian: 1-866-965-2010
Hearing impaired: 1-866-783-2010

Toolkits, Butons and Posters:
The Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network's Nonprofits Count campaign has created posters, fact sheets and a toolkit on the 2010 Census for nonprofits. Please feel free to order a copy of our toolkit. We also have two census posters and census buttons available free of charge. Order a poster today. If you would like to place a bulk order, email us at

To obtain our materials online, visit our Toolkit page. The Toolkit page also includes recordings of previous webinars.

To learn about the 2010 Census in your state, visit your state page at

If you would like to link your page to ours, visit our web badge page.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Census television spots

You might have seen that 30 second spot on during the Superbowl, which has what looks like a movie production team sitting around talking about doing a "secret Snapshot of America". Some have been airing during the Olympics as well.

I don't know about you all, but some of us around here have been wondering: what is up with those ads? Are we missing something? Why are they talking about a "secret location?" Is it supposed to be ironic? Maybe we're just too unhip to "get it."

So I checked out YouTube to conduct some serious in-depth academic research on this topic, and it turns out the character of the "Director" (played by Ed Begley Jr. in the ads) actually has his own YouTube Channel.

Oh yes. His character's name is "Payton Schlewitt," and his Channel hosts all the varieties of these Census ads that have aired, and plenty that haven't. "Payton" even has his own YouTube profile, which describes himself as an "billionaire everyman" with a passion for "Jazzercise," and lists one of his favorite books as "The Spelunkers Guide to Delaware."

This is keeping in the weird irony of the movies "Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show" and the other group of Christopher Guest-directed films starring much of the same cast that populates the Census ads. It would seem that the Census Bureau is hoping to capitalize on the faux-documentary comedy style that characterized those films, along with many current popular TV series like "The Office."

The premise is that this production team, led by billionaire and legendary director "Payton Schlewitt" (aka Ed Begley Jr.), is attacking a new, great film project: "A Portrait of America." In their pre-production meetings, they are attempting to answer the team's questions about the logistics of taking a picture of all 300 million people in America.

These films might, at first be slightly more amusing for those who actually work for or around the Census. Mocking the enormity of preparing for a successful 2010 Census by equating it to 6 movie production crew members standing around a table talking sort of requires an understanding of how colossal an enterprise the 2010 Census actually is, an understanding that isn't quite common knowledge. (Of course, the die-hard Christopher Guest fans will be amused no matter what).

However, if you watch the videos the humor finally starts to come together - the nobility of their director's "vision" of having one snapshot of the whole country, the ridiculousness of trying to organize this, the endless questions. It is these questions that, I believe, the casual viewer of the Census ads is meant to be left with, and one reason why the ads may seem sort of random and non-informational at first. They're designed to get people talking and asking questions, chief among them: "What the heck are those commercials talking about??"

Here's the "production team" - click for their little video intros. You'll recognize the actors (even if you, like me, can't remember their names):

"Chad Sipkin", the burdened Producer
"Danya Burakoff," the dedicated Wardrobe artist
"Robert Rooney", Director of Photography
"Katie Hawbaker", genius Location Scout
"Alden Resch", Casting Director

If you want to watch the full-length version of a "Snapshot of America" ad, here it is:

Full-length "Snapshot of America" spot - 3 min

Below are a few of the shorter videos.
Visit the Snapshot of America's Facebook page.
Visit the Snapshot of America's YouTube page.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

4 ways the Census is conducted

With the first advance notification letters having gone out this week to selection of househoulds, it seems like a good time to review Director Groves' outline of the 4 ways the Census is conducted.

Mailout/Mailback The vast majority of households (about 90% of the population) will receive a census form in the mail via the US Postal Service. This partnership with the USPS has continued since 1970, when the first mailout/mailback US Census was conducted. We ask that you fill it out and mail it back by April 1.

Update/Leave In areas of the country (about 9% of the population) where mail is not delivered to residences uniformly, census staff will visited each housing unit, update our list of addresses, and leave a census form package in a plastic bag at the entrance door of the unit. This is the technique will we use in the Gulf Coast areas that were heavily affected by hurricane damage and are in the middle of their recovery.

Update/Enumerate Just like in remote Alaska, there are parts of the US (about 1% of the population) that both don’t uniformly receive mail at their residence and are far from any town. Some of these have demonstrated very low return rates of questionnaires in the past. In these areas, we will visit each housing unit and take a face-to-face interview with those in the household.

Large Military Installations At big military installations (e.g., Fort Bragg, NC) field work is coordinated with a military representative, and the Census staff is escorted to each housing unit to deliver the questionnaires. The military representative ensures that all questionnaires are returned.

This map is from Dr. Groves' blog, showing where the different methods are being employed. If you can't read the legend, here it is:

Purple = Mailout/mailback; Tan = Update/Leave; Green = Update/Enumerate; (Dark Green = Remove Area Update & Update/Enumerate)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New option for states on inmates in the Census

(Map Source- Prison Policy Initiative)
NY Times- For decades, predominantly rural and Republican districts have had extra clout in state and local legislative bodies because their large inmate populations were counted as local residents in apportioning representation (see map below). Now, the Census Bureau has agreed to give states a tool that could dilute the political power of those districts.

In May 2011, in time for Congressional and legislative reapportionment, the bureau will identify exactly where group quarters like prisons are and how many people occupy them. States would then have the option of counting them in the local population or not.

“This removes a technical problem,” said Peter Wagner, executive director of the Prison Policy Initiative, an advocacy group that favors alternatives to prison sentences and urges that inmates be counted in their hometowns. “The census is going to say where the prisons are and how many people are in them, which will enable states the practical choice of counting them in the wrong place or not counting them at all.”

Read more.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Census Posters!

Wow!! After just a week of having released our new Census 2010 posters for nonprofits, there's been amazing levels of interest - we're sending out hundreds and hundreds of posters!
The posters really are terrific, and great ways to start conversations with clients and constituents about getting counted in 2010. If you're interested in ordering a poster free, click here .
If your organization has multiple locations and you'd like a poster for each of them, email me directly at rachel(at) and let me know how many you want.
Our buttons are also available - they say "Ask Me Abou the 2010 Census" and are a great visual link to the posters.
I recommend getting your orders in ASAP- as I said, we've had a huge amount of orders in a very short time, and it won't be long before they're gone!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Assessment of 2010 Census outreach to Asian-Americans

The Asian-American Legal Defense Fund has released a report surveying the efficacy of the Census Bureau's outreach and language assistance to the Asian-American community for the 2010 Count.

AALDEF's report summarizes that while the Census Bureau has been generally responsive to the needs of Asian Americans, there remain widespread problems. These include:
  • Insufficient support from some Partnership Specialists
  • Limited or no opportunity to preview draft advertisements
  • Misinformation about key programs like the Questionnaire Assistance Centers and Be Counted sites
  • Mistranslations of census materials
  • Persistent concerns about the confidentiality of census information
To read the full report, click here.