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RAP Index: A Personal Democracy Plus "Quick Look"

BY Sam Roudman | Monday, October 15 2012

Pros:
  • Collects and quantifies information on a group’s political connection in a novel way.
  • “It was a low cost option to get a lot of information from our key stakeholders,” says Jim Simpson from the North Carolina Chamber.
  • Does work that usually would require a dedicated staff member.
Cons:
  • Quality of the information depends on an organization’s ability to corral its members into answering the questionnaire.

The Inside Story

Before starting RAPindex, Chip Felkel spent over two decades working on political and issue advocacy projects around the southeast. He noticed, as anyone in advocacy would, that personal relationships were key to getting policy objectives across the finish line but difficult to track.

“Often times you find out about a key relationship after the battle is over, ” he says.

RAPindex’s goal is to make sure advocacy organizations don’t lie awake at night, wondering what could have been. It's a platform for state and national organizations to keep track of the political relationships of their members, and gauge their effectiveness as advocates. It’s a way for an organization to identify their most effective advocates, the "grass tops" of a grassroots campaign.

An organization starts by sending out a RAPindex questionnaire to its members and stakeholders, containing what Felkel describes as a “series of questions [that] dig into breadth, depth, and scope of relationship.” The information then gets quantified. Members receive scores of one-to-five on the metrics of “Relationship” (who they know and how close they are), “Advocability” (willingness to reach out), and “Political Capital” (direct involvement in politics).

If all the stakeholders respond, an organization has a comprehensive, updatable, and actionable map of their potential influence, something that “would require essentially a fulltime staff person working every single day,” according to Sam Denisco, vice president of the Pennsylvania Chamber.

The quality of that map depends upon the response. “Anytime you send out a survey, only so many people are going to respond,” says Jim Simpson, vice president at North Carolina Chamber, which has used RAPindex for the last few years. RAPindex can identify the best potential advocates for an organization, but only to the degree that organization can get its stakeholders to respond to the questionnaire.

But is RAPindex’s focus more effective than the emails and calls of traditional advocacy? Felkel points to a recent study by Fission Strategy which concluded that quality trumps quantity when it comes to advocacy. He also points to the National Federation of Independent Business, which used RAPindex to identify six thousand relationships where staffers had only found 70 before. Felkel thinks RAPindex occupies a unique niche. “We’re the only people out here doing this,” he says. “I don’t know why that is, but I’m damn happy about it.”

Main Features:
  • Questionnaire software that identifies people within an organization with connections to policy makers.
  • Scoring system that describes the potential of a relationship for advocacy.
  • Online, updatable system
Competitors:
Aristotle
Major Clients:
North Carolina and Pennsylvania Chambers, National Federation of Independent Business
Price:
Varies based on an organization’s geographic footprint. Under $20K a year for a national organization, under $12K annually for a multistate organization.

Sam Roudman is a techPresident contributing writer. Icons: Thomas Amby, VoodooDot / Shutterstock.

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