Get Out The Vote $500 Grants: What Are They, and How Your Congregation Can Get One.
Read below for our step-by-step walkthrough of the grant application.
How would your congregation work for voter rights with $500? The Unitarian Universalist Funding Program is offering Get Out the Vote grants to UU congregations during the 2020 election cycle. It is a streamlined process to support UU’s taking part in voter engagement work. In a faith that calls us to uphold the democratic process, these grants can offer the capacity and encouragement for congregations to actively participate in this work.
Lisa Garcia-Sampson, executive director of UU Justice Ministry of North Carolina, has been supporting congregations she works with to obtain the grants. “There is a perception that if your work isn’t innovative enough, you will not get the grant. But this money is being awarded on a rolling basis to UU voter engagement projects that fit their stated parameters until the money runs out,” Garcia-Sampson said. “They have reserved a lot of money for these UU the Vote mini-grants – if you are doing voter engagement work, the UU Funding Program wants to help you.”
Congregations have utilized the money to conduct a wide variety of voter engagement actions. A popular use has been to provide transportation to the polls and back, especially in towns and cities with no public transportation. Many congregations have partnered with national platforms such as Reclaim Our Vote and Vote Forward. They phone bank, send postcards, and write letters to targeted voters. The UU Church of Spokane presented a movie at a local theater, providing free admission and bottomless popcorn to attendees who registered on site or brought along an unregistered guest. Find the full list of how congregations used the grant for the 2018 election cycle by clicking here, and scrolling down on the page.
One of the most important aspects of the Get Out the Vote Grant is that the application is intentionally accessible. Grant writing can be intimidating, but this grant is four relatively easy steps. “We’ve tried to make the application process simple,” said Hillary Goodridge, the Program Director of the UU Funding Program.
If a congregation is working in partnership on a project with other UU congregations the grant can be expanded dramatically. “We had one congregation that was the lead applicant for the grant, then six other congregations joined the work,” Garcia-Sampson said. “It’s as easy as that. If congregations are working on a joint action only one has to write the grant. We had seven total applicants and that amounted to $3,500.” This option creates lasting connections between congregations for UU justice work while growing the impact that the grant can have.
UU the Vote has created a step-by-step guide to the application for the $500 Get Out the Vote grant. It is complete with a sample application provided by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Outer Banks in North Carolina.
Follow the guide below to discover how you can join UU congregations across the country in voter engagement work.
The $500 Get Out the Vote grant is sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Funding Program, through their Fund for UU Social Responsibility. To apply, congregations must:
1) Create a login with basic Information
2) Answer short essay questions
3) Submit a project budget, and
4) Submit a letter of support from the board president.
While this may seem like a lot at first glance, it is a very fast and accessible way to get money for justice work! Follow our guide to walk you through each step and reference our example application pdf provided by the UU Congregation of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Note that the letter of support from the same congregation can be accessed by this link. Finally, be sure to read the “Important Information” section at the end.
Step One: Login
The site to find the application is uufunding.org. The fastest way to get to the Get Out the Vote Grant application is by clicking this link. Or you can go to the “Our Funds” tab and from the dropdown menu click “Fund for UU Responsibility”. You can see “Get Out The Vote” from there.
On this page you can read about the grant. When you’re ready to apply, click the link to the UUFP Funding Center, which is roughly in the middle of your page. Assuming you are not a returning customer, you’ll need to create a new account. You will need basic information about your congregation (they use the word organization on the site). Then you’ll need to fill out some info about yourself.
There are some questions that may be strange if you are a layperson filling out the form, such as the required “business title” section. Just do your best to fill out your position title.
The “Executive Director” usually refers to the minister, but it could also be the board chair. If you are not the minister or the board chair of your congregation, you also must fill out their name and email address.
Go ahead and create the account!
Now you will fill out some introductory items. Give your project a name (however flashy or plain you desire), then under grant type select the Get Out the Vote grant. If you don’t know the exact project start or end date, take an educated guess. Under “Grant Requested”, select $500 — or more, if you are applying for multiple congregations. If you expect to spend any money from church, personal, or other places, input this under “Projected Income From Other Sources”. It is preferred that the UUFP is not the sole funder of the project.
Step Two: Short Essays
Essay Question #1
The question reads: “What are your strategies to increase voter registration and participation?”
Here is where you can talk about the thinking behind what actions you hope to fund with this money. What issues are you specifically addressing? How are they affecting your community? Follow this up by talking about any organizations that you are working with — whether it is a community partner, a State Action Network (SAN), or another congregation — and how that partnership is part of your strategy. If you are the lead applicant for a group of congregations make sure to communicate this.
Remember, the answers do not have to be lengthy. Our example application wrote 130 words in this response. The cap is 10,000 characters for every essay.
Essay Question #2
The question reads: “What actions will you take and when?”
Talk about the event, supplies, training, or whatever it is you are doing! You can go into a little more detail here: write down how many volunteers from your congregation you hope to have and your intermediate and end goals. Discuss how you will advertise the action to your congregation and to the wider community, if it applies. Don’t forget to add a projected timeline as well.
Our example application from the Outer Banks looks long, but it is still only 420 words. This sample is an excellent reference if you are the lead applicant for a group of congregations as well.
Essay Question #3
The question reads: “How will the grant help you with your goals?”
Simply explain your project budget in words. This means that you will have to look up the prices beforehand. If you are renting out a movie theater, call them. If you want to hire local businesses, try to get a quote from them. The section is essentially identifying what materials you need to do your event.
Step Two and a Half: Certified Members & Eligibility
Yes, we slid in another step here. But that is because this is actually a half step. While the average layperson person has no idea how many certified members there are in a congregation, or what UUA eligibility even is, your board chair will. And you need to ask them for a brief letter of support — so ask these questions along the way.
If you search for the “Find a Congregation” tool on the UUA website, you can also find the number of certified members for each congregation.
Step Three: Project Budget
Don’t fear the spreadsheet! This is a very simple one. If you’d like a visual example, refer to the example application. All you need to do is download the template that they give you on the site. The first column is “Cash Expensed”, where you write what the materials are (i.e. Postcards, gasoline, etc.). In the next column there is the “Line Item Total”, where you put the cost of that material. Unless you plan to pay for the expense yourself or through other funding, write the same amount of money that is in the “Line Item Total” into the third column, titled “Requested from UUFP”.
The Organizational Budget is your congregation’s annual budget. Ask your board chair for that too while you’re at it.
Step Four: Letter of Support
This is a short letter from the decision-making body of your congregation — typically the president of the governing board — stating that they support this grant and will serve and the fiscal agent of the grant money is awarded. It is also great for the board to add a couple sentences about why they believe this is important work that lives into the mission and values of the congregation. Read the example provided to us here.
Put this in the “Supplemental Materials” section. While you are asking for the letter, don’t forget to ask about the annual budget, eligibility, and certified members!
If there is anything else you’d like to add at all, attach it to the “additional information” section.
Because fewer people are spending time at the physical location of congregations as a result of COVID-19, you might want to send the grant check to a household. Add a note saying just that.
Then press submit! Congratulations — and thank you for doing your part in putting Unitarian Universalist values into action.
You cannot use this money to reimburse you for anything you purchase prior to the grant being approved! Wait for the money to be approved before spending on anything that you would use this to reimburse.
From start to finish, the entire process takes about 4 weeks. So plan ahead! While it may seem to be a long way away, election season is coming up fast. If you apply soon, your congregation will have plenty of time to use the Get Out the Vote grant.
UU congregations have non-profit tax exempt status under IRS 501©3 Rules. What does this mean? Advocacy, voter engagement, and political activism are all permissible but endorsement of candidates is not. For more information about what is permissible, read the Real Rules by clicking here.
Congregations are only eligible for one $500 grant per election cycle. So if you have used the Get Out the Vote grant in 2020, you cannot receive another one.
As is standard in most grants, there is a brief final report that must be submitted by the end of the year.
Written by Aidan Wertz, UU the Vote blogger and Lisa Garcia-Sampson, executive director of UU Justice Ministry of North Carolina.