Challenge: Coordinating State Bill Tracking Between 50 State Chapters
As an organization that works on a variety of issues related to the environment— nuclear waste, fossil fuels, electric vehicles, and conservation, among others—the Sierra Club has hundreds of pieces of legislation across all 50 states that it needs to track each year.
Jen Hensley is the Director of State Lobbying and Advocacy for the Sierra Club, a national environmental organization with over three million members. Hensley is tasked with observing trends in state legislatures and providing resources to the organization’s state lobbyists and chapters spread out around the country.
Before Quorum, tracking every issue the Sierra Club cared about across all 50 states was an extremely manual process. Hensley would have weekly calls with lobbyists where she would get brief updates from the field, but it wasn’t always a complete picture. To compound the problem, the state lobbyists were all using different software tools, depending on the state they worked in and each state’s website had differing tools for how to follow legislation and statements from legislators.
Solution: One Legislative Tracking Platform for the Whole Team
With Quorum, each member of Sierra Club’s state team—and lobbyists in each state—are able to work within the same platform. Since adding Quorum to its wheelhouse, the Sierra Club’s state lobbying team across the country is more organized in its bill tracking, uses social media to enhance its legislative monitoring, and has built comprehensive scorecards measuring legislators’ activity on issues the Sierra Club cares about.
Quorum allows Sierra Club’s state lobbyists to identify important legislation and signal the organization’s stance on a particular bill within their state.
“Right now, they are tagging the bills that are unique to their state, in terms of do we support, oppose, where is it on the priority scale, then broadly just tracking it by topic,” Hensley said.
Hensley can now see what each individual lobbyist is tracking and search through Quorum for similar legislation in other states to alert lobbyists across the country so they can anticipate a similar issue and share best practices for what worked in the original state.
For example, in 2018, Oklahoma introduced legislation that would ban protests around what states deemed as critical infrastructures, such as pipelines, in response to the Keystone XL pipeline protests.
“Had we not had Quorum, we wouldn’t have known that that bill had passed in Oklahoma and that I should reach out to our lobbyist there, figure this out, and help put together a broader strategy,” Hensley said.
Because of the early warning from Oklahoma, the Sierra Club was able to be proactive in other states, including convincing the governor of Wyoming to veto similar legislation that had passed both chambers of the legislature.
Social Media Monitoring
Along with identifying bills that would impact the Sierra Club’s goals, Hensley has used Quorum to track what legislators are saying about the legislation the Sierra Club cares about. The organization used Quorum when a series of bills came up in South Carolina with regards to nuclear power plants.
When this legislation was introduced, the team set up email alerts for terms related to the legislation so they could know immediately whenever legislators were speaking about the issue.
“The combo of the two has really helped us think through who did we need to be talking to and shoring up when it came to some of the votes that we were going to need,” Hensley said. “It was super helpful in terms of getting us into the social media, [see] where people were leaning, and if we need to circle back to them in the capital or to put in a few more constituent phone calls or office visits.”
Quorum ensured Hensley and her team were always up-to-date with the most important information about the status of the legislation.
As a political organization that endorses candidates based on their activity related to environmental issues, the Sierra Club is consistently using scorecards to present how elected officials stack up on the issues. With Quorum’s auto-updating spreadsheet tool, the Sierra Club can track legislation they are watching and share those scorecards with external stakeholders.
By building scorecards in Quorum, Hensley and state lobbyists can embed the scorecards into their websites so that those interested can always see the most up-to-date information regarding legislators’ positions on environmental issues. Additionally, the Sierra Club is able to share these scorecards with partner organizations.
“We’re increasingly leaning into the larger set of intersectional issues that reflect our larger values as an organization,” Hensley said. “There’s a whole constituency that goes with our toxic work that are not necessarily considered traditional environmentalists—there’s a lot of women’s groups, a lot of public health groups. So being able to help share that visibility with our partners on things is really helpful.”
Impact: Centralizing Information for Proactive Advocacy
With information centralized in Quorum, the Sierra Club can identify legislation to act on, follow social media dialogue related to relevant legislation, and share scorecards with Sierra Club members and partners. In the cases of Oklahoma and South Carolina that Hensley highlighted, Quorum provided an early warning system so that the Sierra Club was on top of the issues and saw results in legislation.
According to Hensley, having an early warning system has been critical to the Sierra Club as they have seen an increase in outside groups campaigning for anti-environmental efforts at the state level.
“We can respond better with talking points, share resources about how we see an issue in a particular state, and know who are the messengers that are most helpful,” Hensley said.