Tell me about your work with the Houston Endowment.
Houston Endowment is a nonpartisan, private foundation that will provide over $100 million this year in charitable grants to organizations that address some of our community’s most significant challenges.
We’ve been a part of the community for 85 years. ... Today, our priorities are to increase informed civic engagement, strengthen public pre-K-12 education, and enhance Greater Houston’s arts, cultural organizations, and green spaces.
Our team partners with nonprofit and civic leaders to identify and support initiatives that increase civic engagement in our region. Our work is very collaborative, and we know that the outcome we seek can only be accomplished by working together.
How would you define civic engagement?
Civic engagement encompasses a broad spectrum of activities and can be defined in a number of ways, including building community connections, government interactions, voluntary associations and everything in between. Our civic engagement work is intended to help people be active participants in building and strengthening their communities. ... We specifically focus on voter participation; civic integration of immigrants; and local, independent journalism.
What advice do you have for voters ahead of the November election?
Take advantage of early voting to avoid long lines on Election Day. We encourage all registered voters to vote in this election and all future elections that arise in our community. This region is our home, and voting is one the most important ways for you to use your voice.
What are some initiatives your team is developing to increase access to civic and electoral processes?
As a nonpartisan organization, we want all eligible voters to be able to vote in safe, secure and accessible elections. We work very closely with our partners to listen to the needs of the community and identify areas where our grants can have the greatest impact.
One of many projects we are currently funding is the Fair Election Center’s Campus Vote Project. We recently provided a grant to its Voter Friendly Campus Project to make 100% of Houston-area community colleges and universities voter friendly by identifying and implementing opportunities to boost student voting. We’re looking forward to empowering the next generation of voters to actively participate in our democracy.
How can voters learn more about candidates and issues on the ballot?
There are a number of informative, nonpartisan voters guides—including vote411.org published by the League of Women Voters—that provide individuals with insight about the upcoming election and the candidates running. We encourage voters to take advantage of these resources so that they can make informed decisions.
What are some outreach tools for voter participation that have proven effective?
It will take all of us—individuals, congregations, schools, businesses, nonprofits and other organizations alike—to increase voter participation. Some businesses have aided in this effort and given employees paid time off to vote or to work at polls. That’s a great way for organizations to encourage voting for their employees.
Programs and priorities
Houston Endowment’s Civic Engagement program is one of three programs meant to continue the legacy of its founders. Each is designed to promote access to education, civic participation and the arts.
Increase informed civic engagement in the region through democracy, civic integration of immigrants and independent local journalism
Pre-K-12 Public Education
Increase the number of children who graduate high school with choices, strengthen the pipeline of supported teachers, and sustain access to high-quality schools for all families
Arts and Parks
Ensure residents can connect and create by maintaining and strengthening a local arts scene, emerging cultural organizations and community connectivity through green spaces
Residents in the Katy area can seek information about the November general election and where to vote.