Tatenda Musapatike is using digital marketing tactics to increase turnout among communities of color.
Tatenda Musapatike is the child of Zimbabwean immigrants, and she learned from her family that elections can never be taken for granted. She has spent more than a decade working at the intersection of politics, technology, and communications — coming to understand the power of well-crafted messaging and marketing science to drive and change civic behavior.
Since the 2016 election, Tatenda has worked with some of the largest civic engagement campaigns across the country. Those experiences have led her to build her own organization, The Voter Formation Project, a nonprofit that uses the tactics of digital marketing to increase civic participation among people of color. This work not only seeks to expand the electorate, but to counter the systematic racism plaguing even the most progressive of campaigns.
In every election, organizations spend millions of dollars to register new voters and to get existing ones to the polls. But they’re leaving behind too many people of color. Only 64% of Black and 54% of Latinx voters are registered, compared to 71% of their White peers. The digital tactics used by national committees and campaigns are woefully outdated, and Black and Brown communities are often left off their strategies. They’re deemed “too difficult” or “not cost efficient” to reach, or their votes are taken for granted.
As an Emerson Collective Fellow, Tatenda plans to expand The Voter Formation Project and change the way voter outreach campaigns are run. By using the tactics of online corporate marketing, the organization will identify eligible BIPOC voters, build smart digital ad campaigns for them, and engage with them more deeply to speak to skeptical attitudes. Ultimately, they hope to mobilize 500,000 new voters ahead of the 2022 midterms while publishing new research and insights on reaching these vital communities.