Civic Engagement for a Better World

Posted by Sarah Reed on Thursday, October 29 2020


Sarah Reed
As Election Day approaches, we are pleased to share the news that the Switzer Foundation has joined our peers in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to provide paid time off for our staff to vote and volunteer in nonpartisan engagement efforts tied to the election. Specifically, we have updated our employee benefits policy to make Election Day a paid holiday, beginning in 2020.
The nonprofit sector employs up to 20 million potential voters, which corresponds to 16% of all votes cast in the 2016 election. When nonprofit staff members volunteer as poll workers or otherwise support the voting process, it can increase engagement of underrepresented groups, including younger and lower-income voters. Providing paid time off is critically important in 2020, given anticipated challenges due to the pandemic for people who plan to vote in person, especially for parents and other caregivers who are disproportionately women and people of color.
In addition to making this change for the foundation’s staff, we would like to encourage Switzer Network members to make similar commitments, promoting paid time off to vote and volunteer within your own organizations, and learning more about how to engage your communities and networks in the democratic process. There are many resources available to support your efforts. Nonprofit Staff Vote is engaging nonprofit organizations, Time to Vote is organizing the for-profit sector, and Just Vote is recruiting all sectors to provide paid time off to participate in the election.
This change will be meaningful to the foundation’s current staff during an extraordinary election year. It is also another important step towards embedding the foundation’s commitment to equity and justice across our organizational culture and operations. Providing paid time off recognizes the differential challenges of voting for staff with different identities and personal circumstances, and it elevates the importance of civic engagement for advancing equity and justice in the communities we support through our fellowship and grant programs.

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