Free Voter Registration Tools for Your Nonprofit’s Website

Apr 2, 2020

Blue Hills Digital Backdrop

Last Updated: September 2, 2020

The 2020 election is looming, and this year it feels like everything is on the line. Yet despite the high stakes of elections, many nonprofits don’t include voter registration in their communications strategy.

In this post, I want to share four things:

  • Why including voter registration in your communications strategy is a no-brainer
  • How to use free tools to add voter registration to your existing website
  • Some resources to help understand how 501c3 organizations can stay within the law when doing voter engagement work
  • How to make voter registration part of your list building strategy

Why nonprofits should encourage voter registration

Nonprofit organizations exist to try and create change in the world. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to think of an issue area that is not affected by who holds power in our government.

A central goal for every nonprofit communications strategy is (or should be) to build an audience of people who care about your organization’s mission. When election season comes around, that audience of people who care about your mission will be receptive to a message reminding them how important it is to vote.

Sure, some people in your audience will already be registered to vote, but some will not. And even more may appreciate the chance to verify their voter registration before the election.

A 2017 study found that more than 60 percent of adult citizens have never been asked to register to vote.

That’s a huge number. Add to that what we know about the number of times a person has to see a message before they eventually take action. Marketers talk about the “rule of seven” — the idea that customers need to see the same call to action as many as seven times before finally deciding to make a purchase.

The same principle applies when asking your audience members to take an action like registering to vote. Across the country, we need people to be asked, prodded, reminded and urged to register to vote as many times as possible between now and November.

How to add voter registration tools to your website, for free!

Adding voter registration tools to your existing website is free and easy to do, thanks to Vote.org!

Vote.org is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that provides voter registration and get out the vote (GOTV) tools and technology. Their tools have registered more than 3.3 million new voters and verified 8.2 million voters’ registration status.

Vote.org provides free code snippets that you can add to your website to provide the following functionality to your visitors:

  • Register to Vote
  • Absentee Ballot
  • Verify Voter Registration Status
  • Get Election Reminders
  • Pledge to Register to Vote

In this post, we’ll take a look at adding the Verify Voter Registration Status tool using two popular website hosting platforms: Squarespace and WordPress.

First, here’s a look at the finished product. Go ahead! This is a real, functioning form that will allow you to check your voter registration status. Give it a try!

Add voter registration tools to Squarespace

Note: this involves adding an iframe to a Code block in Squarespace which is only possible on the Business level plan or higher. Find more information about the Squarespace Code block here.

  1. In your Squarespace account, create a new page or start editing the page where you want to add the vote.org tools.
  2. Click the droplet icon to insert a new content block, and choose a Code block from the menu.
  3. In a new tab, open the vote.org free tools page, and find the section tool you want to include on your website.
  4. Copy the code snippet to your clipboard.
  5. Back on your Squarespace website, paste the entire code snippet into the Code block, and click “apply”
  6. Add whatever headings and additional content you need above or below the code block to introduce your website visitors to the tool
  7. Save your changes and exit out of editing mode.

Add voter registration tools to WordPress

Note: if your WordPress site is not self-hosted but uses WordPress.com, you’ll need to be on a “Business” plan or higher to add custom code snippets. Find more information about adding code snippets on WordPress.com sites here.

  1. From your WordPress dashboard, create a new page or start editing the page where you want to add the vote.org tools.
  2. Click the plus icon to insert a new content block, and choose a Custom HTML block from the menu.
  3. In a new tab, open the vote.org free tools page, and find the section tool you want to include on your website.
  4. Copy the code snippet to your clipboard.
  5. Back on your WordPress website, paste the entire code snippet into the Custom HTML block
  6. Add whatever headings and additional content you need above or below the code block to introduce your website visitors to the tool
  7. Preview your page before publishing!

Are 501c3 nonprofit organizations allowed to register voters?

The short answer is YES, so long as you remain nonpartisan. Just remember: as a 501c3 you cannot support or oppose specific candidates who are running for office, and you cannot support or oppose specific political parties.

Here’s how Bolder Advocacy, a Program of Alliance for Justice, explains it:

Federal tax law explicitly prohibits activity by 501(c)(3) organizations that supports or opposes candidates for public office, but it does recognize the importance of their participation in the democratic process. The law allows charities to engage in a wide variety of nonpartisan election-related activities, such as voter registration and education activities, as well as to work on ballot measure campaigns.

If you’re looking for more detail, I recommend Bolder Advocacy’s publication The Rules of the Game: A Guide to Election-Related Activities for 501(c)(3) Organizations.

Nonprofit Vote also provides great resources to help 501c3 organizations navigate voter engagement campaigns. In particular, I recommend reviewing A 501(c)(3) Guide to Nonpartisan Voter Engagement.

Level up: Make voter engagement part of your list-building strategy

Adding new subscribers to an organizational email list is a strategic goal for most nonprofits. The good news is that with a little investment, voter engagement activities can help with both goals.

Vote.org also offers a premium version of the online voter engagement tools that we reviewed above. For a flat monthly fee, you get access to a dashboard containing the data collected through the vote.org tools embedded on your website. Vote.org collects users’ express opt-in permission to share their data with you within the tools.

If you are a premium vote.org user, you can promote your voter registration tools to people who haven’t subscribed to your email list yet. Your social media channels are a great place to target engaged audience members who haven’t signed up to receive email yet. This helps register new voters AND adds new subscribers to your email list!

You can also include a voter engagement call to action in email campaigns to your existing subscribers. This encourages them to click through to your website from an email, and is a great way to provide value to your existing subscribers. You can encourage them to share your voter registration page with their networks to further increase your audience.

While the premium vote.org tools do provide access to opted-in user data that you can add to your email list, the process for moving the data is still manual. You’ll need to set a regular reminder to download data from the vote.org dashboard and import it into your CRM or email marketing platform.

If you really want to level up (and have the budget to do so), explore which online advocacy platforms include voter registration in their toolsets. For example, I’m a fan of Phone2Action’s platform which includes a “Civic Action Center” with voter registration tools, alongside the standard legislator contact and petition tools. Take a look at Phone2Action’s redesigned 2020 Civic Action Center here.

One advantage of using a paid online advocacy platform is that you can automate the connection with your CRM or email marketing platform. Phone2Action includes integrations with tools like Salesforce and Mailchimp, which allow you to can skip the manual export/import step and have new leads generated from voter engagement campaigns added directly to your database.


Disclaimers:

Since this post references federal tax law and 501c3 status, we must make clear that the information presented here is not legal advice, and that you should address any legal questions about voter engagement activities and your nonprofit organization to a qualified attorney or other legal counsel.

Blue Hills Digital has no affiliation with nor has received any compensation from the vendors mentioned in this post — we’ve simply found their products valuable and think you might too!

Get Tips by Email

Sign up to get the latest tips and guides delivered right to your inbox.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Recent Articles

SEO Keywords for Squarespace: How to Research and Use Keywords

Understanding how to find and use keywords is essential for increasing your Squarespace website’s search visibility. In this guide we explain the following steps to help you get started: What makes a good keywordCriteria for a good SEO keyword3 free keyword research...

Squarespace and Google Analytics: a Step-by-Step Guide

Want to know how to integrate Squarespace and Google Analytics? In this quick guide, we explain what Google Analytics is, how it can help you understand visitor activity on your website, and how to integrate the Google Analytics tracking code into your Squarespace...

How to Identify Website Traffic Sources using Google Analytics

Table of Contents: Using Google Analytics to monitor website traffic sourcesHow Google Analytics groups website traffic into channelsOrganic SearchPaid SearchEmailSocialReferralDirectOther default channelsLimitations of Google Analytics default channels for tracking...