A year before the 2020 census was to take place, Marin County granted the Canal Alliance funds to conduct census outreach across the county. The project lead, Stephanie McNally, the advocacy and policy senior manager at Canal Alliance, got to work with partners and nonprofits, especially in historically undercounted areas, to make a plan. Then the pandemic hit and it all went out the window. So, the action teams pivoted and came up with innovative, socially distanced ways to get the message out. That included ads on buses, a digital campaign with the Independent Journal, signs at pharmacies, toppers on gas station tanks, shopping cart ads, people with signs and tablets at food pantries, phone hotlines and changing the messaging based on current events.
“Even some of those hard-to-count census tracks that we had targeted for outreach, the historically undercounted groups, some of them didn’t make it to their 2010 response rates but they got really close and we feel great about that, because in a year like this with the pandemic and the Trump administration’s position on the census, that might have made people say, ‘why bother?’,” says McNally. “I feel like some of those where we got really close, we would have been much lower if we hadn’t made that effort. I’m proud of the work all these partners did.”
Marin City exceeded the 2010 count, while the Canal District was off a little compared to 2010; overall Marin County did better than in 2010. The census officially ended October 15; here are some 2020 numbers on local self-response rates.