by Matt Alderton | April 30, 2017
Trade associations and professional societies exist not only to educate their members, but also to advocate for them. When a regulation, law, or policy can help or hurt their members' industry, therefore, it's their job to rally the troops to speak for or against it.

Meetings and conventions can be effective tools with which to accomplish the rallying, according to Successful Meetings contributor Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

"Most political advocacy organizations hope their members will take action -- sometime, later, maybe in the future. The American Farm Bureau Federation, of which I am president, used to be that way," Duvall says. "At our annual convention, we'd speak about policies and regulations that could shape the future of the farming profession, hoping our members would contact their elected officials once they returned home. Now, we get more than 1,500 people to take political action within five minutes, on the spot."

The secret is mobile technology, according to Duvall, who says smartphones have changed how AFBF recruits and mobilizes advocates. When he wants AFBF members to coalesce around an industry issue, he takes the stage at the organization's annual meeting.

"I ask the audience to pull their phones out and take action right then and there. They text message 'AFBF' to 52886. Within seconds, they each receive a link, which takes them to a form where they can submit a message to their federal representatives in support of the act. The system instantly matches them with their members of Congress, so they make their voices heard via email, Twitter, or Facebook," explains Duvall, who says AFBF uses the vendor Phone2Action to power its efforts.

"Here's the neatest part: Up on a projector screen, we have a digital map of the U.S. Each time someone contacts a representative, a red pin drops on his or her district, and the audience member's name appears on the screen," Duvall continues. "The motivation is powerful, the social pressure welcoming but firm. The northwestern states aren't taking action, so I give them a little nudge. Email by email, tweet by tweet, we surpass our goal."

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