Starting this November, Election Day will be a paid day off at the Water Foundation. We’re joining a growing number of nonprofit organizations coming together to make it easier for our employees to vote.

Everyone should be able to cast their vote free of barriers created by their commitments at work. The nonprofit sector makes up 14% of the US workforce, equivalent to more than 20 million potential voters.

Still, as Jeffrey Moore from Independent Sector and Brian Miller from Nonprofit VOTE wrote recently, “roughly 43% of eligible voters didn’t vote in the 2016 election…Tens of thousands of those people who didn’t vote probably work in nonprofits – the very people who understand why local, state, and national elections are key to advancing social missions.”

Since we decided on paid time off for Election Day, a few Water Foundation staff members have applied to serve as local poll workers. On recent staff calls, people have shared nonpartisan volunteer opportunities and reminders about vote-by-mail options. Making this change to our time off policy is helping our team do more to help their colleagues, neighbors, and other residents cast a ballot.

We also asked our staff why they think it’s important to have paid time off to vote. Here’s what they said:

“Having Election Day declared a paid holiday shows deep respect for our right to participate in a democratic process and the importance of representative democracy. Advancing policies promoting time off to vote and participate in the electoral process is critical to our future.”

“Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy. Having paid time off to vote and support others voting – neighbors, friends, family, and even those I don’t agree with – will help voter participation in the elections and in the democratic process.”

“Healthy democracies require everyone to participate! Share information with neighbors about the issues. Help folks figure out where and how to cast their ballot safely. Grant time off to your employees if you are in a position to do so. Volunteer to work the polls. And don’t forget to VOTE! Each of us can make a difference!” 

“Voting is the bedrock of our democracy. Having paid time off to volunteer and actively participate in our democracy is a luxury that should really be a societal norm. No matter where you live or who you support, we all benefit when we get involved, exercise our power, and vote!”

More specifically to water, we know that voting is one of many important forms of civic engagement that can help ensure people and nature have clean, reliable water. As Andrew and Juliet on our team explained in a blog series discussing water decision-making, “Every day, a maze of local, state, and federal agencies and officials make decisions about water. Their deliberations determine whether and how people have safe and affordable drinking water, neighborhoods are protected from flood and drought, rivers keep flowing, and much more.”

Many of these officials are elected by voters, and clean water nonprofits like River Network and Clean Water Action are sharing nonpartisan information for voters, including how to vote early or vote by mail during the pandemic.

Join the #NonprofitStaffVote Movement

No matter your organization’s focus, please join us in giving staff paid time off to vote. If you are looking for more information, check out Just Vote, Nonprofit Staff Vote, and Time to Vote. If you provide your staff with paid time off to vote or volunteer, please take a moment to register your pledge.