These 12 adorable baby animals are very worried about the US Census and you should be too


[These two baby javelinas are worried about the US Census and its potential to negatively affect funding for many vulnerable communities]

Hi everyone. I wrote a post about the grave consequences of undercounting in the US Census that’s coming up. And it was read by approximately 8 people. So I am re-posting it now with a new title and pictures of baby animals. This is important, and if pictures of baby animals will help us all to pay more attention and to share the message, then I will gladly spend three or four hours during work researching to find the cutest, cuddliest baby animals to display here. Please share this post widely. 

[This little grey, tan, and white bunny is worried that many people will not fill out the Census surveys because there has been so many attacks on immigrants, refugees, and others.]

The 2020 Census is coming up. This is an incredibly important process that happens in the US every ten years. The results determine how much federal funding is allocated to each state, as well as how many seats in the US House of Representatives. States lose thousands of dollars of federal funding from each person who is undercounted, along with political influence, and it has wide implications for our sector. And this time, more so than others, there is severe risk of vast communities being under-counted, for several reasons. Among them:

General fear and anxiety among immigrant and refugee communities: The xenophobic general philosophies and horrifying, cruel policies embraced by this current administration and its supporters have been as demoralizing as they are destructive. Many people—immigrants, refugees, Muslims—are rightly fearful of the government and will want to keep a low-profile.

[This cute tiny baby hedgehog is worried that questions about US Citizenship is just another way for the administration to lower response rate on the Census].

Potential new questions about citizenship will increase fear even further: The administration is pushing to include questions about US Citizenship, despite the fact that this information is already collected through other surveys. There is fear of what the government will do with this data. Think about DACA; people voluntarily disclosed information, and now it is being used to potentially deport them.


Cut in funding to Census will result in less education and outreach: According to this article, “The U.S. Census Bureau has faced a $200 million shortfall since 2012.” This means thousands of Census employees have to be cut, including outreach workers and those who may have the language and cultural skills to reach many communities.

[This tiny yellow duckling looks happy, but it is worried about what being mostly online will do to the Census response rate.]

Online process will make it harder for low-income people and non-English speakers: Due to the funding cuts, this will be the first Census that will be conducted mostly online, as opposed to paper surveys. This adds a layer of obstacles for people who may be poor and do not have computers at home, or who may not be proficient in English. Even though the surveys are translated into different languages, people still need English to navigate the technology required to even get to the surveys.

We who care about social justice need to get fired up. According to my colleague Perla Ni of Great Nonprofits/CommunityConnect Labs:

[This tan and white kitten with piercing grey eyes in a basket looks worried about the impact to funding from all the people who are not counted. Less funding to states means less funding for nonprofits, despite increase in demand for services. Yes, it is very worried.]

Most immigrants pay federal taxes, but if they aren’t counted in the Census, their communities don’t get much Federal funding. Each person NOT counted is about a loss of 11K federal funding to the State of Washington — primarily in Healthcare and education funding. Education funding gets distributed to local schools and nonprofits in the form of Early Childhood Education grants. [Loss of funding will vary by state to state, but it is substantial per person not counted].


[This grey and white baby chihuahua is thinking about gerrymandering and how an accurate Census count can prevent that]

Census data is used for voting rights, redistricting for State house & senate districts, city council districts, and local school board districts. As a result of the 2010 Census, redistricting created about 58 minority opportunity districts in Texas overall, up from 49 previously; and a new House seat was added to the primarily Latino Rio Grande valley. Also, Census data is frequently used by immigrant rights groups to litigate against intentional gerrymandering by race. For instance, using Census data, MALDEF sued Texas for trying to gerrymander El Paso seats to ensure that Latinos would constitute an ineffective minority of voters.

[This little grey chinchilla is probably not a baby, but it’s still adorable, and it’s thinking about how accurate Census counts will increase mandated translated documents, which will greatly help with civic engagement]

Census data is used to determine voting assistance. If the Census determine that there is ‘more than 10,000 or over 5 percent of the total voting age citizens’ in an area who are minorities who don’t speak English well, the local Elections board MUST provide voter registration, voter information, the ballot, in additional languages. This can make a big difference in elections. For instance, when voting info and ballots in Spanish were provided to Latino voters who had limited English skills, voter turn-out increased by 11%.”


[This baby elephant trying to step down from a boulder is encouraging everyone to mobilize right now] 

This is a pressing problem that should unite us—nonprofits, funders, and donors—as a sector. We need to mobilize NOW. Although two years seem a long way off, the 2020 Census has already started, in fact. The addresses to be included in the 2020 Census mailing list are being determined this year. Cities and counties have until mid-year to submit additions of local addresses to the US Census Bureau. With the deadline for address updates mid-year, there is only a couple of months left for cities/counties and nonprofits to collaborate on this. Think of this as the top of the funnel – if households are not on this Census mailing list, they will not receive any info from the US Census Bureau and it will be nearly impossible for them to get counted.


[This baby seal is inspired by California’s organizing efforts, which secured over $40M in funding for Census outreach and wants to do something in his state. But he can’t. He’s a baby seal. So he needs us to do it.]

Nonprofits: We need to organize. Great Nonprofits and other organizations in California

mobilized for funding, and as a result the State has allocated $3M for coordination and outreach; here’s the letter they wrote detailing specific actions states and nonprofits can collaborate on. Here’s another letter supporting the request for the $3M. And just last week, California announced $40.3million for 2018-2019 budget for census outreach.

They’re doing cool stuff with this funding. Local nonprofits in California, for example, are conducting address canvassing to collect location information for “unconventional” housing for their cities. Five local nonprofits partnered with the City of San Jose on a pilot and submitted several hundred addresses. Remember, if these addresses are not on the Census mailing list, people won’t even be asked to fill out the survey. 

[This tiny baby meerkat is encouraging us to talk to other nonprofits and get fired up!]

Meanwhile, several orgs have collaborated to create Census Outreach, a nonpartisan website with tools, language, sample letters for funding, and reports on the success of outreach efforts in the past.

Talk to other nonprofits in the area. Bring this up during meetings with public officials. Start pushing city, county, and state government for funding for outreach, education, and support. Use the letters above as templates, and California as an example of states allocating funding and actively mobilizing around this.

[This white lamb lying in the grass is asking funders to allocate funding for Census coordination and outreach]

Funders and donors: Knowing how slow government processes are for funding allocation, we need you to step up. If people are undercounted, it means there will be lots of money lost in allocations from the federal government. When that happens, there will be higher demands for social services from nonprofits, which means we nonprofits will increase our requests for funding from you all. You can help mitigate this by funding efforts to accurately count people. Think of it this way: Every dollar you spend to help people get counted will be matched many-folds by dollars allocated by the federal government every year until the next Census, in 2030. That’s a pretty good ROI.

Talk to other funders. Establish local Complete Count Committees. Pool funds. Give significant amounts for outreach starting now and over the next two years. Use your influence to convince elected officials that this is critical and that they need to support outreach funding. We need your leadership.

[This baby giraffe who is being bottle-fed implores all of us to pay more attention to the Census. This is a really, really important issue!]

The Census is important. Ensuring that the most marginalized members of our community feel like they count, like they matter, is at the heart of our work. This time, it is literal. Let’s work together to ensure everyone is counted. 



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21 thoughts on “These 12 adorable baby animals are very worried about the US Census and you should be too

  1. Lisa M Stone

    All 14 people at our org read it. And agree wholeheartedly. Even those who are not animal lovers

  2. MissionBox

    Important and timely post – read it on Monday and just read it again. The baby animal photos are a nice touch!

  3. Laura Goodwin

    This was worth reading if only for the descriptive captions alone. Vu, you’re right: this is incredibly worrisome… along with 1000 other things. Daily. Tired. So tired. And so so so pissed off. But, keep calling it out and reminding us all of the full range of things to mount the barricades to fight.

  4. digopheliadug

    I read it before but I’ll never say no to baby animals. (This strategy, incidentally, is how I get people to read my timesheet reminder emails, too)

  5. Stacy Ashton

    Good work. Canada had a similar issue when our Conservative (our version of Republican) government removed the long-form version that went out to a random percentage, relying only on a mandatory short form with a lot of key information missing. We collectively freaked out.

    The Conservatives lost the next election, the new government immediately restored the mandatory long-form census and, and Canadians announcing they’d filled it out (or lamenting that they didn’t get picked for the long form) trended on twitter for a few weeks.

    In summary: winnable fights are awesome!

  6. Cathy Wessels

    Enjoy your blog
    posts. As a Canadian, the US Census doesn’t affect me. We Canadians
    completed our census last year. Did you know that it is illegal in Canada
    not to complete the census? Our completion rate was 98.4%. The government is
    currently going after the 1.5% of people who didn’t complete the census.
    $500 fine or 3 months in jail. That’s how you get people to complete the
    census. Just sayin’.

  7. Steph

    Adorable baby animals will always prevail. Thanks so much for all you do each week, but especially this week. You’re absolutely right that this is a very important issue and needs widespread attention. THANK YOU!

  8. Cheryl Snow

    Hahahaha!!!! I was one of the 8 who read your post when you first sent it out Monday but read it again cuz ….. baby animals, you’re so right — eyeball magnet! Thank you for your efforts in general, but specifically about this critical census issue in these challenging and difficult times here in our country.

  9. Beth Becker

    We read them both…we really did! AND we are worried about what may happen following a census that does not accurately represent populations in our areas of service, our neighborhoods, and cities. Will funding streams stop or have excuse to ignore already voiceless people?

  10. Erika Sanger

    Hi everyone
    I read them both and this is of concern to me as well. I volunteer my time tutoring refugees who are at the most basic stages of learning English and preparing to move beyond their homes into daily living situations. They share cell phone numbers, living arrangements, kitchens, clothing, and medications. There is no way that these people will be counted appropriately. Thanks for all the baby animals. You need a Fiona picture! e

  11. Louise Jensen

    Hey, I was one of the 8…but love the baby animals!!! Being in the environmental field…can we count them, too? They get under-represented, too.

  12. Sandy Heather

    I read it and shared it via FB. We serve older immigrants and refugees. This is critical to the vulnerable populations we serve. Thank you, Vu!

  13. Kelly Ace

    I read the original, too — which means that most of us 8 (if that’s really all the readers there were, which I find hard to believe…) are accounted for!
    I’m sharing.

  14. Brent Alexander

    Don’t forget to partner with other groups to amplify the need for accurate information coming from the census including industry, local levels of government and economic development groups. Many levels of society are impacted by government funding decisions that are dictated by census numbers – the better we partner with them, the more likely all of our voices and concerns will be heard. That was part of the reason the long-form census was reinstated in Canada when we had a similar attack on or fact based decision making by our previous Conservative government.

  15. Ryan McConnell

    This article is unnecessarily alarmist. You’re freaking out because the government wants to ask, on the census, whether or not you are a citizen of the country? Come on. If they can’t ask that question on a CENSUS, what CAN they ask?

    Similarly, you’re worried because because the census is presented in English and much of it will be online this year. Yet your article points out that the government offers translated versions as well. So, what would your solution be to this non-existent problem? If the census was only offered in English, and everyone had to learn English to fill it out, THAT might be a problem. But that is NOT the case.

    Non-profits shouldn’t fall prey to the idea that everything is a problem and they need to run around like defiant children shrieking about every single thing, even when no problem really exists. Focus on what you do. If you’re a homeless shelter, go save the homeless. Don’t pay any mind to this claptrap.

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