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Planning a Census Assistance Event
Another option is to hold an assistance event – a well-publicized chance for a lot of people to get hands-on help in completing and returning the census form. It's essentially a bigger-scale, one-time version of an assistance center, designed to help boost participation among hard-to-count communities.
(You may be familiar with citizen application workshops where legal permanent residents complete their N400 forms with the assistance of trained staff, volunteers and attorneys. This is the same idea.)
Your assistance event could be a half-day or full-day event in a school gym or other room with space for people to move about. Here are recommended stations to set up; a sample floor plan is attached.
- Station 1 – Welcome and Introduction. Here families will learn about the process for the day, get answers to basic questions, and find out what assistance is available on languages other than English.
- Station 2 – Know Your Rights. Groups divided by language preference will be given a "know-your-rights" presentation that will review the privacy provisions of the census. A knowledgeable volunteer will answer any questions related to privacy or other concerns.
- Station 3 – Everyone has a Census Form. At this station volunteers will make sure each family has a census form. (This is also a waiting area.)
- Station 4 – One-on-One Assistance. The majority of volunteers will be placed at this station. Here, a person or family will receive assistance in completing their census form.
- Station 5 – Copy Station. There should be at least two copy machines available to make a copy of the completed census form for the family.
- Station 6 – Postal Service Drop. This is where families turn in their completed census forms to the U.S. Postal Service or drop boxes.
- Station 7 – Resource fair for families to receive:
- Voter registration information
- Citizenship information
- Health services etc.
An event doesn't have to cost a lot of money to produce, especially if you or a friendly organization has access to rent-free space and equipment. But producing an event will take some money. Consider and plan for the costs of:
- Space (if you or a partner do not have a venue you can use for free)
- Food (you'll boost turnout if you can tell people you'll have something for them to eat)
- Promotion / getting the word out
- Sound system or other equipment
- Staff Time
See if other organizations will co-sponsor the event and provide funding, refreshments, or materials.
Offer local businesses and coalition partners the opportunity to be listed as a cosponsor in exchange for providing meeting space, phone use, or copying and advertising expenses. You might be able to make a deal with a local copy shop and get free copies in return for advertising their name on the back of your brochures and flyers. Be creative!
You will need between 25-50 volunteers in order to organize an assistance forum designed to serve 200 families. Volunteers will need to be trained in basic information about the census, how to help complete a census form, and basic logistics like crowd control.
Roughly 10 percent of your volunteer/staff should be "experts" around the census (they should have good knowledge of the census, timelines, the census form etc.)
Identify a location that is seen as a "safe" place for people you want to reach, is convenient and easy to find, has free parking, is wheelchair accessible, can accommodate a sound system and maybe some video, and can handle your stations and room for up to 200 people.
Develop a timeline of steps needed to plan, promote, and carry out your event. Assign staff or volunteers responsibility for tasks that need to be done.
Be sure to give yourself enough time to get the word out to your target audience once you've nailed down the logistics.
Consider what kind of materials you want people to take with them when they leave. You can create a simple fact sheet with some of the key messages encouraging people to take part. Include phone numbers for local assistance centers or call-in help for languages that are spoken in your community.
Templates for flyers and brochures will be available on the partners section of the Census Bureau's website.
Publicity and Outreach
Create flyers promoting your forum and have them available at the offices and service centers for local community organizations.
Encourage local groups and congregations to publicize your event in their newsletters. Ask local radio stations and community newspapers to promote the event in their calendar sections (keep in mind that some of these have lead times of more than a week).
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund will offer media outreach help to events organized by its partner organizations.