“There are few parts of our footprints more influential than how we spend our dollars. Whether it’s through contributions to causes, daily spending, or longer-term investments, our collective decisions on how we allocate those dollars can have a profound impact on uplifting democracy.”

– David Pepper, Saving Democracy

Our Democracy Budget

For those who already dedicate some of your hard-earned money to political causes (i.e., candidates, parties, etc.), my hope is that once you see that we’re in a battle for democracy itself, you’ll convert your political spending into a ‘democracy budget.’ (For others who haven’t given before, start your ‘democracy budget’ from scratch.) Once you frame it that way, you’ll see that beyond simply giving to federal ‘swing’ candidates every two years, there are numerous other ways to invest dollars as part of a more strategic long game that lifts democracy.

Every day, we face a simple choice. We can spend and invest our dollars to lift democracy or spend in a way that funnels dollars into the drive away from autocracy and extremism. Each of us, in any way we can, should maximize our pro-democracy spending and minimize our extremism spending. Let’s reward those institutions that are doing the right things for democracy and keep our money out of places that prop up autocracy and extremism, as our money would then also support extremism. By making these conscious decisions and communicating them, we can create a broader incentive structure to support democracy.

What Does This Look Like for Businesses?

First, create a voter-friendly workplace. First, by encouraging their own workers to vote by communicating information about upcoming elections, how to register, and the like. Even better, by taking meaningful steps such as paid time off (Gap Inc. and Pinterest), opening late or closing early (Best Buy), giving “voting time off” (Etsy), etc., to make voting as easy as possible for their workforce. All this sends a signal to their employees, customers, and constituents that voting is so important, they’re willing to invest in it. It communicates that part of their mission is that their own employees take part in democracy.

Second, encourage their own workers or other constituents to serve as poll workers or in other roles outlined Protect Voters and Elections. Many already do so. Old Navy and Target, for example, paid their employees to serve as poll workers, while LinkedIn recruited both its employees and members to do the same, focusing on areas with high demand for poll workers. Similarly, the NFL partnered with veterans organizations to encourage thousands of veterans to volunteer as poll workers in the 2022 midterms.

Third, encourage consumers and customers to register, vote, and be engaged in other ways, again using their full footprint to do so. Like the McDonald’s, NFL, and Kroger examples from Chapter 3, there are countless ways that companies can encourage, inspire, and directly help their customers participate in democracy. Some of my favorite examples: At the local and regional level, build business coalitions to do this activity together. Local businesses and business groups should band together with other community efforts (from the prior chapter), all using their footprints to lift democracy and voters in the community they serve. Get out of the autocracy business. Put your money where democracy is.

Invest in Democracy: Resources

Civic Alliance
Goods Unite Us
Leadership NOW
CREW: Citizens for Ethics
Popular Information
Color of Change