Nonprofit Newswire | iPhone App Helps Latinos be Counted

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March 9, 2010; National Public Radio | A consensus is emerging about the upcoming census—to ensure an accurate count, foundations and charities alike will have to play a more aggressive role than in past years to get people to take part. As National Public Radio notes, their incentive is simple: the people these groups serve stand to gain the most but are the ones “least likely to take part.” One example of a foundation-backed effort is work that Voto Latino is doing to get Latinos to respond to the census. The group, which encourages Latinos to become more engaged in civic affairs, created a special iPhone application for Los Angeles County that introduces users to the census process. They can even take a quiz to reinforce what they learn from using the app. The sweetener: afterward they can download five free songs to play on their mobile device. “The reason we’re starting to use this mobile online piece of it is that we found that 25 percent of iPhone users are of Latino decent,” says Maria Teresa Kumar, Voto Latino’s executive director. Kumar adds that through the app, users learn that the census is safe and that by helping provide an accurate count, their communities could share in “hundreds of billions of dollars in federal aid, for things like education, highways and mass transit.” Among those backing Voto Latino in California are the Open Society Institute, Ford, California Community, Knight, and Silicon Valley foundations, and the California Endowment. In New York, the Hagedorn Foundation is helping Voto Latino and other nonprofits do census outreach on Long Island. Meanwhile Voto Latino is among two dozen groups splitting more than $1 million as part of the Illinois “Count Me In” campaign that Joyce and nine other foundations are funding. “The Joyce Foundation knew the upcoming census was going to have a huge impact on the populations of folks that we work with and that many of our colleagues in philanthropy work with and care a lot about,” says foundation president Ellen Alberding. Like with the lottery, to get any benefit from the census, “you have to be in it to win it.”—Bruce Trachtenberg