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Below is an excerpt from an article, originally published in Harvard Business Review, about corporate efforts to increase voter turnout through a non-partisan lens. Looking for more guidance? Organizations like the Civic Responsibility Project work with business leaders to increase voter participation, and Voter Engagement Fund is another way to connect with nonprofits that are increasing voter participation.
In 2018, voter turnout in the U.S. midterm elections was the highest of any midterm election in the last century. Of the many factors contributing to this achievement, hundreds of companies encouraged their employees and/or consumers to vote. For these companies, “get out the vote” programs not only helped get more voters to the polls but also helped to raise brand awareness, strengthen relationships between employees and shareholders, and even open dialogue with elected officials.
Understanding this dynamic is increasingly important; we know politics at work can be tricky, but there’s evidence that corporate political engagement is beneficial to businesses. Studies show that consumers are more loyal to brands that take a clear stance on issues they care about. But taking a partisan approach to civic engagement can alienate employees or customers in today’s hyperpartisan environment. Our study finds a sweet spot for firms: being pro-democracy and pro-voter, without being partisan.
In our discussions with these eight companies, five lessons surfaced consistently:
- Focus on participation over politics: Core to all of the messages these eight companies promoted was the idea that “it doesn’t matter who you vote for, just be sure to vote.”
- Even small efforts are meaningful: There is a ladder of engagement, and companies can create civic participation programs starting from the lowest rung and building up over time.
- You likely already have the staff you need: Most companies had one or two dedicated people managing the companies’ efforts, and some had other employees volunteering time to support, but no company had a full-time civic engagement staff person.
- Early planning is crucial: All the companies agreed that planning time was essential to creating maximum impact.
- Staying on-brand is key to authenticity: The overall look, feel, and voice of a civic engagement program needs to be consistent with the company’s overall message to consumers to have maximum impact.
Read the full article on Get-Out-the-Vote efforts by Ashley Spillane and Sofia Gross at Harvard Business Review.