In 2012, Faith in Action embraced Integrated Voter Engagement (IVE), a year-round program that connects voter engagement to issue-based organizing to build power, sustainability and impact over multiple election cycles. By contrast, traditional electoral programs are seasonal operations that leave no infrastructure behind.
To maximize both our impact and learning, we made a commitment in 2014 to launch a research program to study our voter engagement work.[i] Consistent with Faith in Action’s DNA as a learning organization, our goal was to improve over time and contribute new knowledge to the field of IVE for both organizing and voter engagement. To support our research, we convened a team of experts from the Analyst Institute, Dr. Hahrie Han from University of California at Santa Barbara and Dr. Paul Speer from Vanderbilt University.
We believe the real return on investment for IVE programs extends far beyond election day. Faith in Action’s research seeks to broaden the metrics our movement uses to assess voter mobilization programs and identify metrics that capture not only whether people turn out to vote, but also the extent to which they become full participants in our democracy. In other words: Does the way we invite people to participate in our democracy move them to reconsider their role in it? We aspire to measure:
- The impact of organizing on voters’ and volunteers’ sense of agency and political efficacy.
- Our collective capacity to organize across race, gender and other differences.
- Our ability to translate the power built during elections into far-reaching policy change.
During the 2014 midterms, Faith in Action led the largest nonpartisan volunteer-driven direct voter contact program in the country. While overall the midterms suffered from a low level of public interest, it marked a new chapter in Faith in Action’s Let My People Vote (LMPV) program. LMPV is a hybrid of IVE, leadership development and issue-based organizing designed to empower thousands of volunteers to effect change in their communities.
LMPV has been most successful in places where ballot initiatives created the possibility for concrete and positive change or where the organization did an exceptional job framing the election around an issue platform. Two of our federations participating in LMPV programs, Indiana’s Indianapolis Congregation Action Network (IndyCAN) and New Mexico’s Comunidades En Acción Y De Fé (CAFé), demonstrate the enduring power of IVE programs that integrate issues and elections. Not only do they impact election turnout, they also secure policy victories and develop powerful constituencies.