By taking their advocacy efforts mobile, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., energized participation in the organization’s grassroots work by members who spend little time at their desks. The key: simplicity.
For Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC), getting members to participate in grassroots advocacy efforts had been a struggle.
“One of the challenges that we saw was it was difficult for members of our association to really get engaged and involved with elected officials in a simple manner,” said Chris Carroll, director of grassroots for ABC. “Our members are out in the field. They come in Monday morning, they sit down and check their desktop [computer] once, and then they’re off in the truck and they’re out and running.”
When they leave the computer behind, ABC members—like so many other professionals these days—stay connected through mobile devices. Carroll saw an opportunity to reach them there.
“We wanted to develop a method for them to be engaged and up to speed on what’s going on with our [advocacy] issues as simply as possible, and that’s mobile,” he said.
With release of its advocacy app, ABC Action, earlier this year, the group has seen a dramatic increase in engagement levels. The app allows members (and nonmembers) to quickly find their local representatives’ contact information and see how they voted on relevant issues, get the latest news from ABC through push notifications, learn what issues are important to them, and quickly send letters to Congress.
Of all the letters and information that ABC sends to the Hill, the app is responsible for 20 percent to 23 percent already, Carroll said. “If we can push this information in front of [lawmakers] when it’s relevant and when it’s necessary,” he added, “then that’s the ideal scenario.”
ABC Action is the second iteration of an app the group developed for their annual legislative fly-in.
“When our members came in, we asked them to download the app, and they could get a schedule of events; a map of Washington, DC, and the House and Senate buildings; and where their legislators stood on our particular issues,” Carroll said. “This [new app] was born out of, ‘How do we continue to get our members to utilize this app year-round as opposed to just when they come for the fly-in?’ And that’s when we realized we needed to tie in the advocacy component.”
The adoption rate among members rose quickly, in part due to the app’s launch at a major conference and a board chairman who went all-in in promoting it to members.
“It’s been a constant drumbeat of ‘here’s the app, go check it out, go use it,’” Carroll said. “And mobile technology is hitting a saturation point where, yes, you expect younger members to be utilizing it, but the more seasoned folks, the business owners, they know how to use this stuff.”
The keys to the app’s success? Carroll offered two.
“Put yourself in your members’ shoes, and boil down the issues,” he said. “You have to really evaluate the time they have to dedicate to a particular issue and figure out how to simplify that level of engagement. It’s just added value for our members, and the more that you can simplify the process and simplify getting information in their hands, the better it is for everybody.”