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An Everyaction CRM for Colorado Rising

It’s probably stating the obvious, but I really like to support folks who are working for a cleaner, healthier, fossil fuel-free future. Colorado Rising is a local grassroots group doing exactly that. They’re working at getting a new issue on the ballot for the 2018 election that would change the regulations for oil and gas development.

For full disclosure, I work as a volunteer for this group as well.

This is an issue dear to my heart. I live here in Colorado and have seen the negative effects of extraction on communities, not just from a financial standpoint, but more immediately from an ecological and health standpoint. I could go on to say a lot more…and I won’t. You can read more about the history of their work on their website here. Plus, you’re here to read about the tech!

The point is that we had an opportunity to work with these folks on some of their technology so we jumped at the opportunity. They’d been given a grant from Lush to work on this initiative and they had a little piece of it carved out for technology development. The two big tasks we had were setting up the CRM (customer/constituent relationship management) system and building out the website to interact appropriately with the CRM. Let’s dig in.

Back story: the sausage factory

Have you ever worked on a ballot initiative? If yes, you can skip ahead. If no, let’s just say that it’s no walk in the park. You know that old saying “if you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made”? Yes, it’s just like that.

There are a bunch of roadblocks in place that make the process of changing laws and regulations exceedingly challenging. And rightly so. We wouldn’t want to have things changing willy-nilly all the time. Structural changes should be given an amount of attention proportional to the number of folks affected by the change. For Colorado that means over 5.5 million people.

The hoops that one has to jump through are (especially after the passage of Amendment 71 in 2016) increasingly challenging. Really curious what it looks like on the floor in the sausage factory? Check out this article on how the initiative process works in Colorado. The biggest barrier? In the state of Colorado you still have to collect signatures on paper. Yes, that’s 98,492 hand-written signatures gathered by everyday citizens. With the appropriate margin of error — because the state is quick to throw out signatures — that number soars to 147,738.

The work we did for Colorado Rising was, in part, to put in place some tech tools to help them overcome some of these barriers to democracy.


The original scope

Our original project scope was the following:

  • An app for use in the field that:
    • Enables signature gatherers to validate petition signatories at the point of signature. Specifically, the signatories’:
      • Address on file with the Secretary of State
      • Legal name
      • Registration status
      • Whether or not the signatory has already signed
    • Enables signature gatherers to track progress.
      • If 50 signatures are gathered in a specific state senate district on February 23, 2017, the app would record that information and transmit it to a central server once connected.
    • General requirements:
      • The app would work without an internet connection (expected to be a common scenario given use in the field – so incorporation of online / offline syncing logic required)
      • The app would be Android and iOS
      • The app would have a tablet and phone version
      • Back end that can be relatively easily moderated/maintained by a small handful of trained individuals
  • A server that tracks and reports signature gathering progress
    • Total signatures gathered vs. required
    • Total signatures gathered by state senate district vs. required
  • A website promoting the initiative
    • Purpose
    • How to volunteer
    • How to sign / where to find signature gatherers (general info — not expected to be a geolocation feature)
    • Get the tracking app (internal use)

Discovery and implementation

After a thorough discovery with the help of Culture Foundry (thanks, y’all!) we collectively determined that building a new piece of software to counteract the negative side effects of 71 was far too great a task for the time, budget, and effort they could afford. The next best solution? Everyaction. It has a lot of powerful functionality.

You can use the system in connection with voter data to do a lot of the targeted canvassing and outreach that’s needed. You can also integrate with sophisticated websites to manage interactions online. It still can’t collect signatures or do some of the more sophisticated metadata collection that we’d like, but it’s a powerful tool and it has a dedicated support staff to keep it up and running.

After getting through some technical glitches on Every Action’s system (thanks support team) we were able to configure their instance to import past data from a Google Spreadsheets by way of CSV import. By creating custom fields and custom “Activist Codes” we were able to add people to the database and mark if they had signed in the past or donated among other data points.

Website setup

After the CRM setup, the website work was easy. Since we already had our forms built for endorsements, pledges, volunteer signup, and donations (the contact form was requested to be built in Google Forms so that more organizers would have access to respond to new messages) all we had to do was build a simple plugin that generated shortcodes for Everyaction forms.

The Everyaction shortcode takes a form URL (like: https://actions.everyaction.com/v1/Forms/Y3CgO7tsr0u6ldLeq47VoQ2) and pulls out the form ID then generates the code for an action tag to embed that form on the website. By designing a short code we made it much easier for non technical users to add forms to the website without having to paste in code that they didn’t understand.

To simplify the website process we used our favorite base theme, Make Plus. I pulled a few Colorado images from Unsplash, found some nice lightweight fonts on Google Fonts, made some judgement calls on layout, and mixed it all together.

Since that time, the folks of Colorado Rising have gathered a lot of endorsements and been diligently plugging away at the bureaucratic process. They’ve also taken over control of the site and have made a lot of pages and edits. To me, that’s a success all in itself!

We’re looking forward to seeing how they use the system we built and learning more about their process over the coming months. We’ll certainly have more CRM work with Everyaction at some point in the future so it’ll be fun to get into the nitty gritty of the feedback loop. As learning happens, I hopt to post more about this tool and how you can best use it for your campaigns.