Nonprofits Can (and Should) Consider Giving Staff Paid Time Off to Vote

2 minute read

Deviré Robinson,Vice President, Philanthropic Advancement, Foundation For The Carolinas and Board Chair, North Carolina Center for Nonprofits

As Early Voting is underway in North Carolina, I want to use my position as the Center’s Board chair to highlight the Board’s unanimous decision to adopt a written policy allowing all Center staff to take paid time off to vote. 

As an organization, the Center strongly believes in the importance of nonprofits and the people we serve voting in every election. Our professional expertise and our lived experiences make us essential sources of ideas about the best policy solutions to address the countless challenges facing North Carolina communities. Making sure we show up to cast our ballots gives us the opportunity to choose whichever candidates we believe will best serve our communities and sets the stage for us to engage in policy making discussions as voters. 

Giving staff paid time off to vote demonstrates how highly we value our staff’s active engagement in our democracy. It also creates a more comfortable workplace, removing any awkwardness busy employees might feel about asking their supervisor for some extra time during the workday to go vote. Our policy implicitly recognizes that work is not anyone’s only commitment; some staff people are caregivers, others are continuing their education, still others hold volunteer responsibilities that take up their after work hours. We don’t want voting to be squeezed out of people’s schedules, so we need to make time for our staff to fit it in. 

Significantly, allowing staff to take paid time off to vote lifts much of the burden off the shoulders of each individual trying to figure out a time when they can vote, and instead, embraces the idea that voting is a shared responsibility. We fully recognize that in some nonprofit workplaces, such as those providing direct services to clients throughout the day, giving time off for voting will require a bit of coordination among staff to make sure there are no coverage gaps. Getting everyone on staff to commit to voting at different times during the Early Voting period or on Election Day creates both accountability and support, two things that help to ensure people follow through on their intentions of voting. (We even have an Early Voting planner your staff can use to help make those plans.)

As we wordsmithed our policy, we thought as well about the Center’s role as a champion of the nonprofit sector. One of our core commitments is to model best practices - both because we believe in leading by example, and because we know how valuable it can be to have an example to follow. Thus, we designed our policy with the hope that others would borrow liberally from our language as you craft your own organizational policies allowing staff to take time off to vote (or even to volunteer in a nonpartisan capacity during the election). 

If you have already adopted such a policy, or are well on your way, congratulations! And if your organization is just starting to discuss what it would look like to adopt a paid time off policy for your staff, thank you for taking those first steps. What better time to run a pilot seeing how it works to give your staff time off to vote, and then decide how to institutionalize it?

Deviré Robinson, J.D. is vice president, philanthropic advancement at Foundation For The Carolinas where he assists nonprofits and corporations through a variety of philanthropic services, helping them focus on their charitable missions and make a greater impact in the communities they serve. Deviré also serves on the board of directors of the North Carolina Center for Nonprofit and is currenly the board chair.