This interview was originally published in Noozhawk.
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In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Vicki Allen, Vice President of Communications for the League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara to learn more about how this nonprofit strives to foster a democracy where every person can confidently participate.
League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara
Question: What is the name & mission of your nonprofit?
Answer: League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara. Our mission it to Empower Voters. Defend Democracy.We envision a democracy where each person has the desire, the right, the knowledge, and the confidence to participate.
Q: How long has your nonprofit been in service and whom was it started by?
A: In 2020 the League of Women Voters (LWV) turned 100. The League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara (LWVSB) is getting ready to celebrate its 85th birthday on Feb. 14, 2023. The US League was founded just six months before the 19th amendment to the Constitution was ratified after a 72-year struggle. From the beginning, when its leaders began work to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters, the League has been an activist, grassroots organization.
The League acknowledges that the suffrage movement did not include all women, excluding women—and men--of color. Today, at the national, state and local levels, the League fights for voting rights across the country, continuing to make democracy work—for everyone.
Q: What was the inspiration behind your nonprofit?
A: Just as women won the right to vote a century ago and founded the League of Women Voters, our message is still: “We believe in the power of women to create a more perfect democracy.”
Looking ahead to the next 100 years, at all levels, we are committed to what LWV calls “the transformation,” with a focus on “The Big Idea: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion.” We try to look through a DEI lens as we work to educate and advocate on critical issues like voting rights, housing and homelessness, criminal justice reform and the climate emergency.
Q: How is your nonprofit primarily funded and what are your greatest needs?
A: We are funded by member dues, donations and occasional grants. A large portion of the dues to LWVSB goes to the League of Women Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters of California to support their important work. Your contribution supports: our local voter registration and get out the vote activities (especially for our under-served communities and youth); candidate and ballot information forums; and community forums on important issues (all have Spanish interpretation and are recorded for later viewing on our YouTube Channel; office expenses to keep the lights on, and reduced dues for those who need them. Because of Covid, most of our forums and events are virtual or hybrid, so our greatest need is for funds to pay for the expensive technological requirements for those.
Q: How do people get involved/volunteer for your nonprofit?
A: When members join they receive welcome information about League committees and ways they can follow their interests. Our website-- lwvsantabarbara.org —has a join button (as well as a donate one). We also hold new member orientation events. And we email the monthly Channel Voter newsletter, which includes many volunteer opportunities. League friends,. who are not yet members, also receive the newsletter and are welcome to learn more by attending committee meetings or participating in a variety of activities.
Q: What is one best kept secret or fun fact about your nonprofit that not everyone knows?
A: A pandemic nearly derailed the women's suffrage movement. “Women overcame influenza, social distancing, and political bias to win the right to vote,” according to a National Geographic article. After the long fight for women’s right to vote, suffragists had to figure out how to continue their campaign in the face of the Spanish Flu. They did. Finally, the 19th Amendment was adopted on Aug. 26, 1920.
Q: Can you share one or two stories of individuals whose lives have been changed because of your organization?
A: An Pham, a high school student, was the youngest board member in the history of LWVSB. She is now a student at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. An wrote, “As a female coming from a country where women had no voice, I am grateful for the opportunities to work with the League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara. I first worked with LWVSB junior year of high school on a classwide AP Environmental Studies (APES) project. With help from the League, my class was able to register and preregister more than 300 youths to vote. From there, my friends and I have continued to inform youths about voting and the importance of voting by going to History and Government classes and given presentations of why students’ votes matter. Individually, I have been working with the League on the LWVSB website since Fall 2018 and I have been able to learn not only how the board puts together events/forums to inform people about current and local issues, but also about how to vocalize my thoughts and how to help make a difference in the world.”
Q: How does the work of your nonprofit get communicated to the public?
A: Watch our forum videos in English and Spanish on our You Tube Channel (at www.lwvsantabarbara.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @LWVSB and on Instagram @lwvsantabarbara. We send press releases and calendar listings to local media. The League also does advertising at election time for candidate and ballot pros and cons forums. We also rely on other community organizations to share League information with their members. The League has many partners and often works in coalition on common issues.
Q: Why should donors trust your organization and are there other ways to help outside of donations?
A: The League of Women Voters is one of the nation’s most respected grassroots organizations. We have a long track record. The non-partisan League takes positions on issues, but does not support or oppose candidates.
While we welcome donations, LWVSB is an all-volunteer organization and we rely on our members to help carry out the goal of “making democracy work.” Members are encouraged to join committees, where our work happens. So the best way to help is to join us.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about your nonprofit that has not been mentioned above?
A: Since its inception, the League has helped millions of women and men become informed participants in government. In fact, the first league convention voted 69 separate items as statements of principle and recommendations for legislation.
Throughout the years, the League has continued its dual purposes of education and advocacy. Our LWVSB committees show the scope of our work—Voter Service; Social Policy; Housing; Sustainable Communities; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Membership; Observer Corps; Communications; Hospitality, Nominating, and a Book Club.
Click here to support The League of Women Voters's mission to create a demoncracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge, and the confidence to participate.
Check out Noozhawk's Guide to Giving for a full list of nonprofits to donate to this giving season.
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