In 2017, OES developed the Community Outreach Toolkit with the U.S. Census Bureau’s Center for Open Innovation Lab (COIL) team in an effort to summarize behavioral insights that could be employed to increase completion of the 2020 Decennial. These insights were organized around common reasons understood from customer research for not completing the census. This Toolkit is meant to support the extensive network of external partners’ Census communication and outreach efforts.

In the Toolkit, four common participation “barriers” are identified:

  • “I don’t think the census has any impact on my life.” This person isn’t sure what the census does, how its data affects them, and why their participation matters.
  • “I don’t feel comfortable sharing my information.” This person is concerned about data privacy or having their information used by other federal agencies.
  • “I have trouble completing census forms.” This person may not be a native English speaker and finds census forms confusing.
  • “I don’t have time to fill out the census.” This person is very busy and assumes the census will be time-consuming and cumbersome.


To help overcome these barriers, the Toolkit then provides useful evidence-based insights, worksheets, and printable materials for approaches to make Census communications as effective as possible. Some of these tips include:

  • Make it actionable - reducing friction in the path towards completion is critical, and sometimes the smallest tweaks can have a significant impact.
  • Make it relevant - position your message to work for the audience you hope to engage, accounting for what’s important to them and what motivates them
  • Plan the delivery - meet people where they’re at, the packaging of your message matters



We hope the Community Outreach Toolkit can provide tangible tips and guidance for anyone working to ensure an accurate count in 2020! To learn more about the 2020 Census, please visit

Read the full toolkit here.