Why OC Votes: What Would Orange County look like if Everyone Voted?

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By Anne Olin, Charitable Ventures and Taryn Palumbo, Orange County Grantmakers

It is an important election year for the country, locally, regionally, and nationally. As part of our commitment to strengthening our communities, Charitable Ventures (“CV”) and Orange County Grantmakers (“OCG”) are reigniting the OC VotesGet Out the Vote Campaign for the duration of the year.

Launched initially during the 2020 Election and after the 2020 Census, OC Votes is a campaign developed to engage nonprofits and philanthropy – trusted, nonpartisan organizations focused on critical community issues – to strengthen Democracy through civic engagement.

We have amazing champions in this space. Nonprofits and funders on the front line of civic engagement, GOTV activities, and citizenship. However, because of the important guidelines restricting nonprofits and foundations from engaging in political lobbying, many of nonprofits and foundations tend to shy away from anything political…”just to be safe.” 

We are here with an important message – it is both SAFE and LEGAL for nonprofits to encourage voting and to participate in elections if they honor the clear guidelines provided by the IRS.

We believe civic engagement and community building is the heart of the nonprofit industry, a critical strategy to meet community needs and help solve problems.  We also believe that no one knows better about what the community needs…than our community itself.

Who then, would be better than nonprofits in reaching community members with trusted information about how to exercise this important civil right in our society.

In this spirit, and in solidarity with citizens and residents across the country, we are inviting our colleagues to get energized and involved in the 2024 election.

Our campaign launched yesterday with a symposium for nonprofit election engagement, with expert speakers talking about advocacy, civic engagement, the role of the media, and Orange County’s own voting infrastructure.  We continuously share free resources and voting guides for distribution. We are highlighting the voices and good work of our regional civic engagement partners. We will be connecting communities to translated materials, toolkits, national organizations, and culturally relevant messaging and best practices.  In the months before the election, we will are focused on offering free sessions and webinars on election law, how to recognize AI generated disinformation, GOTV strategies, and how to reach the hardest to reach communities to increase voter engagement.

We encourage everyone to use the information that is useful to mobilize the communities you serve and work with…and please remember to encourage your own staff to exercise their voting rights!

Whether you are a c3 nonprofit, a c4 nonprofit, or a community initiative just getting out the vote – we can all do our part to support democracy.

For more information, please visit https://charitableventuresoc.org/oc-votes/.

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By Avery Huffer As my time with the Orange County Grantmakers comes to a close, I’ve had the chance to really reflect on my experience

How do we build a compassionate and inclusive America in an age of distrust? WAJAHAT ALI knows from personal experience that when we come together to be the superheroes of our own stories, we can create honest social change. The beloved TED speaker has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic about our urgent issues—immigration, politics, parenthood—with boldness, hope, and humor. His memoir Go Back to Where You Came From, one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year, follows his life as a Muslim Pakistani-American on a surprising, emotional, and challenging quest for the good life. Iconic journalist Katie Couric says that “we are all so fortunate to be on the receiving end of his intellect, his humanity, and his heart.”

Wajahat Ali

“With wit and charm, Ali delivers a masterful meditation on growing up brown in America...he gives us a clear-eyed affirmation of the country America could be.” — Mara Gay, New York Times

Wajahat Ali uses his platform to fight tirelessly for the social change we need in our country—and he isn’t afraid to get personal while doing it. The Daily Beast columnist and former New York Times writer, TED speaker, award-winning playwright, and Peabody-nominated producer of the documentary series The Secret Life of Muslims offers us his experiences of triumph over hardship as a beacon of hope and resilience in the face of life’s impossible situations. From his experiences of Islamophobia growing up as a Muslim Pakistani-American to his two-year-old daughter’s liver cancer diagnosis, Wajahat is living proof that when we share our authentic stories, we build the America we wish to live in.”

In his memoir Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American, Wajahat teaches us how to create our own superhero origin story, invest in hope for the future of America, and enact real social change. The book was called “biting and funny and full of heart” by NPR. Representative Ilhan Omar called Wajahat’s work “hilarious” and “deeply moving”, and legendary writer Dave Eggers said it was the book he’d “been hoping Wajahat Ali would write for ten years—hilarious, stylistically fearless, deeply humane.”

Wajahat is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim-Americans in a post-9/11 world. He was the lead researcher and author for the Center for American Progress’s seminal report “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” and served as a national correspondent for Al Jazeera America, where he told stories about communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media.

As Creative Director of Affinis Wajahat Labs, he worked to create social entrepreneurship initiatives to support and uplift marginalized communities. He also worked with the US State Department to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. Wajahat initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. For his work, he was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and recognized as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. 

He has given keynote speeches around the world such as TED, The Aspen Ideas Festival, Google, the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival. His writing appears regularly in the New York TimesThe Atlantic, the Washington Post, and The Guardian. He’s a Senior Fellow at The Western States Center and Auburn Seminary and co-host of Al Jazeera’s The Stream.