April 8, 2021

Regional Census efforts will lead to stronger communities

Great Lakes Bay Region top area in Michigan for 2020 Census engagement rate


Back in 2018, Foundations across Michigan were encouraged by the Michigan Nonprofit Association to work closely with community organizations and partners to promote and educate the importance of the 2020 Census. The thought was that the positive philanthropic partnerships and relationships of Foundations could help communicate effectively the importance of completing the census along with help combat myths surrounding the census in regards to how information would be collected and used.


Following the results of the 2010 Census, the state of Michigan was the only state to lose population. As a result, Michigan lost a seat in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. (a decrease from 15 to 14) and millions of dollars in federal funding over the ten-year period from 2010-2020. It was crucial for Saginaw County, the Great Lakes Bay Region, and the entire state of Michigan that we get a complete count in the 2020 Census.


Together with the Bay Area, Midland Area, Mt. Pleasant Area, and Saginaw Community Foundations a 2020 Regional Census Hub was established, with each Foundation providing financial support to hire a regional Census Coordinator. Chloe Updegraff, the Great Lakes Bay Regional Census Hub Coordinator, worked closely with each of our communities to promote and encourage a complete count. Here in Saginaw County, the Saginaw Community Foundation also provided funding for mini-grants to support the efforts of community organizations who organized events and activities to encourage residents to complete the census.


The 2020 Census kicked-off in March 2020 and concluded in October 2020. Despite some initial setbacks in the beginning related to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 200 census-related events were safely held with proper social distancing and mask protocols across the Great Lakes Bay Region with more than 35,000 people attending.


When data was tabulated in Michigan, the Great Lakes Bay Region was ranked the top area for census engagement in the state. Michigan was ranked 8th in the nation for self-response rates and also ranked 3rd best in the nation for largest gain in state-wide responses to the 2020 Census versus the 2010 Census. In total, Michigan had a 71.3% self-response rate – an increase from the 67.7% self-response rate of 2010. Saginaw County also saw a gain in the self-response rate moving from 72.2% in 2010 to 74.2% in 2020. Each individual counted in the census results in $1,800 in federal funding each year for ten years in Saginaw County.


“I am so proud of the level of collaboration, teamwork and outreach that has been accomplished over the past two years of this project, with such a diverse group of nonprofits, local governments, businesses, schools and individuals not just being involved but leading the charge,” said Updegraff. “My hope is that we set the standard for collaboration and community impact, and that this Census Hub model is replicated and utilized to create impact for many years.”




2020 Census Partnership Highlights


Promoting the 2020 Census was a team effort in Saginaw County with 30 organizations assisting with getting the word out about the importance of completing the census. To aid in communications efforts, a Communications Toolkit was created. The Toolkit contained customizable print and digital materials allowing organizations the ability to tailor messaging for their audiences. SCF granted over $65,000 to ten organizations in Saginaw County for census related activities. Here two SCF grant funded examples:


Saginaw Transit Authority and Regional Services (STARS)

Coordinating with the City of Saginaw, STARS hosted three events in the fall to encourage census participation. The City of Saginaw provided giveaway items, tables, chairs, tents and voter registration cards. Local food vendors and music provided by a DJ helped draw people to the event. The Complete Count Committee helped people take the census.


Prior to the events, 4,000 households had not been counted. After the events, only 500 remained.


Great Lakes Bay Hispanic Leadership Institute

Understanding the importance of getting the Hispanic population counted, representatives of the Great Lakes Bay Hispanic Leadership Institute attended church fish fries and food distribution events and stood outside popular Latino stores educating people about the census and providing iPads for people to take the census right there. When the pandemic hit, they quickly pivoted to digital promotion with Facebook Live videos and chats, virtual townhalls, videos, an informational webpage, radio ads and online contests.


“Our collaborations with many local organizations made the outreach efforts possible. We are certain that if we hadn’t utilized the Census Hub resources, there would be a gap in the Hispanic count in our region,” said Monica Reyes, Executive Director, Great Lakes Bay Hispanic Leadership Institute.