When Christina Duren started working to get out the vote, she never dreamed that she’d get a personal thank you from Michelle Obama.
“She was just like I imagined her, kind, sweet, and very genuine,” says the Miami resident, founder of the Beautiful Brown Girls Brunch Club, a Meetup group with more than 27,000 members across the country. “She gave me the biggest hug. That really warmed my heart.”
Duren decided to talk with her members about voting after Meetup encouraged its member groups to discuss the importance of voting in the midterm election. More than 100 Meetup organizers, including the Beautiful Brown Girls Brunch Club, devoted time to talk about the issue.
WeWork also worked to increase voter registration, setting up voter registration hubs in 25 cities across the country, including public hub buildings in 10 cities that were open to the public. These hubs allowed people to register online, check their registration status, or find out what steps they need to take to become a registered voter. WeWork, which also partnered with Nonprofit VOTE and TurboVote, registered more than 1,000 new voters.
WeWork employees say the voter registration drive was an immediate success in locations around the country.
“The buzz started spreading before we even starting signing people up,” says Claire Inman, community lead at Kansas City’s WeWork Corrigan Station. “We made sure it was quick so that people could just stop in and register in a few minutes.”
Inman says that as well as WeWork members, other tenants in the building heard about the program and started dropping by to register to vote.
Carolina Marrero, community Lead at Miami’s WeWork Ponce de la Leon, says members were appreciative about the company’s voter registration efforts.
“Our members appreciated that that we were taking the lead on this issue,” says Marrero. “People here care a lot about community, and they felt like this was something that would directly benefit the community.”
Chloe Brown, community manager of WeWork 1920 McKinney Avenue in Dallas, jokes that her background doing voter behavioral research in graduate school definitely helped. She knew exactly how to get people to register.
“We got the best cupcakes in town,” she says. “They were in patriotic colors. When people walked by we’d say, ‘Do you want a cupcake? All you have to do is register to vote.’”
Brown says many people they registered would be first-time voters.
“A lot of them told us they didn’t even know how to begin with the voting process, so never registered,” she says. “Just our being there changed that for them.”
Duran says her own involvement in getting people to vote is personal.
“I vote to honor my grandfather, who can remember a time when he could not vote, and my grandmother, a daughter of Bahamian immigrants, who, even when she could no longer walk, mailed in her ballot for every election,” says Duran.
She wants the praise from Obama is important not only for her, but for her entire group.
“She was so sincere and sweet,” says Duran. “I told her about Beautiful Brown Girls and she immediately said: “I’m a beautiful brown girl too!’”