All hands on deck! 6 ways to use your voice—or help others do so.

In the past week, the presidential inauguration, public demonstrations, and other related events have touched millions of people in Minneapolis and nationwide. At The Minneapolis Foundation, we believe that communities are stronger and policies work best for all when we draw on the expertise of Minnesotans with varied points of view and experience. We have a long track record of investing in efforts to ensure that everyone in our community has the tools and resources they need to participate in public decision-making.

Did you know that a study by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy determined that for every dollar philanthropy invests in civic engagement, the community benefits to the tune of $115? That’s a return on investment of $115 to $1!

Here are six ways you can get involved locally to share your expertise and raise your voice, or help others do so.

  1. Learn from someone unlike yourself.
    In an era when many mainstream media outlets have shrunk or gone under, our community has one of the most vibrant media markets in the nation. In addition to larger TV stations and newspapers, Minneapolis-St. Paul is home to many small but active community publications, including The Circle, the Twin Cities Daily Planet, the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, and the Minnesota Women’s Press.
  2. Weigh in by contacting your elected officials.
    Call or send an email to weigh in on the issues that matter to you. The United States government has a website where you can quickly and easily find contact info for your representatives. Do elected officials pay attention? When I asked R.T. Rybak, our CEO and President and former Mayor of Minneapolis, he was emphatic in his response. “Absolutely! I learned a lot from those constituent calls and emails, even when someone was mad at me.”
  3. Serve on a neighborhood association, city board, or commission.
    These volunteer opportunities are available at the city, county and state level, with hundreds of seats that become open throughout the year. City level? Contact your city hall to learn about openings. County? Contact your county commissioner’s office to learn more. State? Visit the Secretary of State’s website to find open positions. Choose an area of interest and watch for your opportunity.
  4. Volunteer on a campaign.
    If you live in Minneapolis, 2017 promises to be an exciting election year. This year, there will be 25 city-level races and Ranked Choice Voting will be used. Campaigns are always seeking volunteers, and many nonprofit organizations do nonpartisan voter engagement. If you’d like to learn about some of those organizations and possible volunteer opportunities, contact me at cgray@mplsfoundation.org.
  5. Learn what local nonprofits are doing.
    We are fortunate to have a strong community of nonprofits that are working to increase voter turnout in historically underrepresented communities, remove systemic barriers to voting, and strengthen leadership, advocacy, and organizing capacity in diverse communities. To learn what some of them are up to in 2017, head to our Recent Grants page.
  6. Contribute to The Minneapolis Foundation’s civic engagement fund.
    Every year, we make competitive grants to local organizations that work to increase civic engagement in the communities they serve. You can team up with the Foundation to support nonprofits that apply for funding through our grant cycle. In partnership with the Foundation and many effective nonprofits, you will help the people who are most impacted by pressing issues in our community be part of shaping and informing solutions to those challenges. Make a donation.

I also invite you to check out the Civic Engagement section of The Minneapolis Foundation’s OneMpls Hub for new stories, quizzes, and information about what’s going on in our community.

Catherine Gray is The Minneapolis Foundation’s Director of Impact Strategy for Civic Engagement. Learn more about the Foundation’s Civic Engagement work.