The advocacy technology market is shifting. As practitioners ready to meet the needs of their clients in 2019, there are several unanswered questions on the horizon. These are some of the queries that we should see answered over the next 12 months and beyond:
1.Will we see our first publicly traded company in advocacy software?
The growth of FiscalNote in size, scope, and diversity of product offerings begs this question. If FiscalNote acquires more assets in the advocacy space over the next few months this could become a reality. Their acquisition of CQ Roll Call came as a shock to most and I would anticipate that their next acquisition would be both headline worthy and not what everyone expects them to pursue next.
2.Can Capitol Hill keep up with the influx of communications?
Far too often grassroots is measured on the number of messages sent to Congress or phone calls placed to a member’s office. The narrative is slowly shifting from “I want you to flood their phone lines” to “We should get two key contacts to call the senator.”
This cultural shift is far from over and many organizations still emphasize quantity over quality when it comes to grassroots campaigns. Congress and state capitols across the country need to invest in people and technology to intake constituent opinions and citizen activism.
The system is volatile and often varies office to office. The future of grassroots as a key mechanism of government relations rests upon the belief that someone will listen to you when you give your opinion. The mass influx of communication and the ability of Congress to process this information efficiently puts the whole system in jeopardy.
3.Will advocacy professionals be able to sustain engagement in a non-election year and keep focus outside of the presidential contest?
Partisan politics and advocacy have an interesting relationship. Sometimes they go hand in hand. Other times they compete for the attention of the same donors, activists, and media.
Immigration advocacy is now clearly in the limelight, but it’s still too early to determine if momentum can be sustained by your rank-and-file membership and trade associations, who don’t currently have their issue highlighted.
4.Will VC firms continue to invest in advocacy software and will Silicon Valley take more of an interest?
The advocacy technology market is tough to quantify in total spending. The community itself isn’t that large but has been growing considerably. If VCs and Silicon Valley take a greater interest in the government relations and grassroots marketplace, it may lead to the development of new organizations, companies, and groups that, in turn, could help innovate the industry.
5.Will the market continue to expand, consolidate, or experience mergers and acquisitions?
My prediction would be an expansion year overall with some mergers, rollout of new tools, new partnerships, and whitelisting of services. If the motivation is financial incentive for a technology company, it makes a lot of sense to explore integrated PAC software and a consulting option that entails grassroots, direct lobbying, communications, and PAC.
Offering consulting services together with tech tools increases earning capacity for advocacy businesses. It would be wise to have an option that’s full-service and one that’s a la carte where practitioners could select the best option from each vendor.
6.Will advocacy software platforms continue to spread beyond the United States and introduce the American-style of grassroots organizing to other countries?
Some platforms are already doing this in Europe, Canada, Mexico, and Australia. This may not be a major area of interest for 2019 in the grand scheme of things, but global grassroots will be a factor with multinational corporations and the adoption of this technology in new countries. Hopefully, the U.S. advocacy market can learn and grow because of new lessons learned by other countries and vice versa.
Joshua Habursky is assistant vice president of advocacy at the Independent Community Bankers of America, chairman of the Grassroots Professional Network, contributing editor to Campaigns & Elections and an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.