This year’s midterm elections are just as critical as a presidential election with much at stake — the economy, post-pandemic recovery, advocacy on gun control, women’s rights, to name a few issues.
Natalie Tran, co-founder of the Civic Alliance, a nonprofit engaging businesses in the voting process, wants Americans to show up to vote. That’s why she’s liaising with private companies to increase engagement and make it easy for working Americans to take out the time to participate in their civic duty.
“Typically, we see voter enthusiasm skyrocket in presidential years and then decrease in midterm years. We want presidential election energy this year and every year,” she says.
As Executive Director of the CAA Foundation and head of the Civic Alliance, she’s actively working with companies on how they can play a role. Currently, she’s collaborating with more than 1250 companies, she says, that span in size, demographic, and geography — from small independent businesses to Fortune 100 companies — through the Civic Alliance.
Examples include Microsoft, which she explains, has a program called Democracy Forward already and is launching a new internal Civic Engagement Hub for employees to find voting information, and get more involved in civic life. Starbucks helps staff find relevant issue-based town halls in their are and teaches people about how Congress works, she says, through their civic literacy program. Lyft developed the LyftUP Voting Access Program, which they’ve been running for a few years now: it offers free or heavily discounted ride codes for 2022 primaries and midterms to nonprofit partners that operate in communities where getting to the polls itself is a challenge.
“It’s part responsibility and part opportunity for the business community,” she notes. “This is a very consequential midterm election and its going to take engagement from every sector to ensure we have a strong and healthy democracy…this is an all-hands-on-deck moment!”
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Thus, she recently launched the Corporate Civic Playbook, available on their website, that delineates examples of how companies have become more involved and how others can follow in suit, along with quotes and blurbs by company executives explaining their rationale.
“We see this Playbook as a one-stop-shop to help companies on their civic journey, no matter where they may be. It actually walks companies through creating their own civic plan by providing examples of action steps companies can consider.”
Some brands have been doing this for years —- giving employees time off to go vote, making public statements on social issues, and fighting for public causes. But for those who haven’t thought about it, Tran hopes that the book is a simple package to inspire and encourage action.
“We spent a lot of time researching and were guided by the expert team at Democracy Works. We know that what’s in the Playbook works and is impactful,” she says enthusiastically.
Tran goes further to make the argument that publicly traded Civic Alliance companies were more profitable overall by an average of 6.5 percentage points and increased 2.2 percentage points higher. So can this really affect the bottom line? Perhaps.
But overall, Tran’s seen that mass mobilization for civic efforts works —and that’s what motivates her to make voting easier and more effective. For example, in 2020, she recalls, there was a poll worker shortage. She worked with member companies in the Civic Alliance to fill that need: Old Navy, for instance, she says, offered paid time off (of 8 hours) to employees who were chosen to work as poll worker. In total, using the Alliance, they were able to recruit 750,000 candidates for poll workers. “This way, we’re also ushering in a new and younger generation!”
Plus companies such as Live Nation, The Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group, and others offered to host polling at their locations, she says.
The Playbook is free, and Tran hopes that it motivates companies this year in some fashion — be it creating a devoted program on civic duty, giving employees time off to partake, or going deeper and helping employees volunteer and become more active citizens.