October 14, 2020

Choosing the Best Municipal Government Political Monitoring Software for 2020

By Taralinda Willis

double exposure of businessman or salesman handing over a contract on wooden desk

 

Keeping track of issues and ordinances as they make their way from idea to law at the municipal government level can be a nightmare without the right tools. 

 

With municipal governments serving populations from a few thousand to millions, there’s a huge range of levels of sophistication between municipal governments. Most government affairs professionals deal with multiple cities and counties, so staying organized requires the help of political monitoring software.

 

The field of government relations or political monitoring software is relatively new, with most products popping up in the last decade. Most of the large players in the field started at the federal and state level, and have then expanded to cover municipalities, but are still best known for their capabilities at the state and federal level. 

 

Curate was created precisely because of this void in local tracking. With thousands more cities and counties in the country than states, we saw a dire need to make the life of a local lobbyist easier. 

 

But we recognize that many issues that start at the local level bubble up to become state or federal legislation. Many of our customers benefit from using Curate in tandem with one of the state and federal tracking services, so we’ve put together a breakdown of how Curate compares to the top three political monitoring services that also provide local tracking. 

 

FiscalNote

 

Overview

Founded in 2013, FiscalNote was designed to help government affairs professionals keep track of legislation as it moves through state and federal government. The well-funded startup now has a team of more than 400 and uses a combination of manpower and artificial intelligence to provide data to its clients around the world. It is on track to consolidate a good chunk of the government analytics industry through acquisition. 

 

Approach to data collection

FiscalNote collects data with proprietary technology that crawls the web to find documents put out by hundreds of government websites around the country that relate to pending legislation, according to an Inc.com profile from 2016. 

 

Known for

FiscalNote is known for its ability to make predictions about which legislation is likely to pass in Congress and statehouses around the country. 

 

Local issue tracking

When it comes to local tracking, which FiscalNote added in 2017, the service allows customers to track local laws, resolutions, speeches, hearings, and more for any city or county with a population over 50,000, according to a company blog post in 2020. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, only about 750 cities met this standard, leaving out almost 19,000 incorporated cities, towns and villages in the U.S. 

 

Alert frequency

The issue-tracking services in FiscalNote allow users to get real-time alerts about the issues they care most about, or they can choose to get batches of alerts on their preferred schedule.   

 

Mobile app?

FiscalNote has an app for Android and iOS.

 

Cost

In 2016, Inc. reported that pricing started at $10,000 a year for a nonprofit, and ranged up to more than $200,000 for a large private or public company.

 

Quorum 

 

Overview

Quorum is a massive software platform with a wide range of features for government advocacy work that was founded in 2014. The self-funded company provides real-time alerts about policy developments at the state and federal level by tracking legislation, social media, and dialogue across Congress and all 50 states, as well as a variety of automation tools to help teams collaborate on their lobbying efforts. 

 

Approach to data collection

Quorum uses web-scraping technology to automatically scan political websites, social media accounts for politicians and government agencies, and minutes and agendas from government meetings to help lobbyists know what issues are currently on the table at any level of government. 

 

Known for

Possibly the most exciting feature Quorum offers is the ability to instantaneously respond to issues that are buzzing. When an alert comes in, customers can immediately address the issue by sending out an email or tweet from inside the platform to hundreds or thousands of elected officials and/or federal employees who have some connection to the issue.

 

Local issue tracking

Customers can track agendas and minutes for council, committee, and board meetings across the top 200 largest cities and 200 largest counties by population in the country. Quorum’s software also checks elected officials’ social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to notify customers when officials mention their keywords.

 

Alert frequency

Real-time alerts are available when issues get added to agendas. 

 

Mobile app?

Quorum has an app for Android and iOS.

 

Cost

In 2015, HuffPost reported that the service cost $4,800 annually, although there is likely to be a wide range in cost depending on coverage area, how many team members need access, and whether you want to access the full suite of services.

 

MultiState

 

Overview

Moving away from the AI-powered lobbying realm, MultiState has been helping clients track and influence policy at the municipal, state, and federal level since 1984. MultiState built a network of state and local lobbyists across the country, and they leverage this team of experts to help clients stay abreast of legislative issues and policy change. 

 

Approach to data collection

At the state and local level, MultiState assigns a dedicated policy expert to each client, who serves as an extension of the client’s team. The expert reads bills and regulations and files them into a customizable online tracking platform for the client. 

 

Known for

MultiState is known for its done-for-you approach to lobbying. One of its coolest features is its automated lobbying compliance reporting for every state.

 

Local issue tracking

MultiState’s experts monitor more than 4,300 local jurisdictions—typically covering cities and counties with populations over 20,000. When the expert identifies a proposed ordinance or local action that matters to a client, they add it to the client portal.

 

Alert frequency

Alerts arrive as soon as the expert identifies them and adds them to the client portal. 

 

Mobile app?

MultiState does not have an app.

 

Cost

MultiState does not provide pricing information online, but it is likely on the higher end of the policy tracking services since it relies on human researchers instead of artificial intelligence. 

 

Curate

 

Overview

Curate was founded in 2016 by a former construction project manager and a computer scientist to help general contractors find out about construction projects the minute they become public in a city meeting agenda or report. 

 

The venture-backed startup has since expanded to provide AI-powered project and issue tracking in towns, cities and counties all over the country. 

 

Approach to data collection

Curate’s software constantly visits government websites to download the agendas and minutes of councils, committees, task forces, and boards. If the group publishes agendas online, Curate tracks it. Then, using proprietary machine learning models, Curate sifts through the millions of documents it downloads to identify the relevant mentions of customers’ chosen topics.

 

Known for

Curate is best known for local tracking. It’s the only platform that was designed for local first, and its highly customizable searches help clients find out about construction projects, fee changes, regulation updates, and proposed ordinances that pose a threat to their business or provide an opportunity.

 

Local issue tracking

Curate has the most comprehensive local database of the four services in this analysis, covering more than 11,000 municipalities and counties across the country. In most states, this includes every city down to 2,000 residents, and in some more rural states, Curate even tracks cities with only 1,000 residents. 

 

Alert frequency

Curate customers can choose the report schedule that works for them. Most customers choose weekly because that keeps them up-to-date on city meetings, but customers can get reports as frequently as daily.

 

Mobile App?

Curate does not have an app, but the website is built mobile-first so the site is accessible regardless of the screen size.

 

Cost

Curate’s services range from $3,000 per year for small nonprofit organizations to $80,000 for enterprise clients covering huge geographic areas. 


Ready to be in the know about local policy changes? Schedule a discovery call to learn more about Curate’s local policy tracking tools.

October 14, 2020

How to Choose the Best Construction Project Tracking Software for Your Business in 2020

By Taralinda Willis

Close up of woman mechanic with yellow helmet in hand against city background

 

Finding new business in the construction industry requires really good intel. And to get the best intel these days, most construction firms are turning to some kind of lead generation service.

 

Lead generation services have been around for a long time. In the last few years, there has been a new wave of services popping up that aim to solve two major pain points for contractors: finding new projects AND bidding on them. By creating an efficient place to post and respond to bids, a variety of companies have created a de facto lead generation service. 

 

Curate has taken a different approach to helping construction contractors, architects, and engineers find new projects as early as possible. We’ve built a system that alerts our customers about new projects the minute they appear in any public records at the city or county level—and sometimes long before. 

 

Many of our customers benefit from using Curate in tandem with a bid management service, pairing the best tool for finding projects with the best tool for bidding on them. We’ve put together a breakdown of how Curate compares to the top three construction project tracking services available. 

 

Dodge Data & Analytics

 

For 130 years, Dodge Data & Analytics has been tracking construction activity around the country. The company notes that the U.S. Census Bureau relies on Dodge to track commercial construction spending. 

 

Dodge uses a combination of building permit data, relationships with organizations like the Associated General Contractors, and a nationwide team of journalists to constantly update a database of construction projects. The project reports include details about project type, plans and specs, where to submit bids, project owner, project engineer, and contact info. See a sample report here. 

 

Dodge estimates that its reports cover 92 percent of construction projects in the country, including both the public and private sectors. 

 

Pricing for Dodge Reports varies by region. Tracking one major metropolitan area costs around $100–$150 a month, according to the Dodge Global Network subscriptions page.

 

ConstructConnect

 

ConstructConnect is a lead-generation service that has been gobbling up other companies to provide a suite of services for construction companies to bid, win, and manage projects.

 

The company was formed in 2016 with the merger of BidClerk, Construction Data Co., and iSqFt. By combining the databases of those three companies and a handful of others, ConstructConnect now claims to have access to 99 percent of commercial construction activity in the country.

 

Like Dodge, ConstructConnect casts a wide net to fill its database. ConstructConnect has a network of more than 4,000 general contractors, partnerships with organizations like AGC and American Institute of Architects, and a 1,600-person content team that constantly calls sources to get updates on projects coming down the pipeline.

 

Within the software, customers can reply directly to bids, invite subcontractors to join them on their bids, and estimate projects. 

 

The cost for access to ConstructConnect’s services varies based on the features you need, the geographic area you want access to, and how many team members need their own login. The lowest packages start at $1,600 per year, and a full-service package for all of North America would cost upwards of $60,000. 

 

Curate

 

Curate was founded in 2016 by a former construction project manager and a computer scientist to help general contractors find out about construction projects the minute they become public in a city meeting agenda or report. 

 

The Curate database includes 11,000 municipalities and counties across the country. In most states, this includes every city down to 2,000 residents, and in some more rural states, Curate even tracks cities with only 1,000 residents. 

 

Curate’s software constantly visits government websites to download the agendas and minutes of councils, committees, task forces, and boards. Then, using proprietary machine learning models, Curate sifts through the millions of documents it downloads to identify new projects in its clients’ coverage areas. 

 

The service can also track keywords that indicate future construction projects are planned, long before projects come up for bidding. This early warning can help contractors know who to begin developing relationships with before even submitting a bid, giving them a leg up on the competition. 

 

Customers receive roundup reports when they want them. Most customers choose weekly because that keeps them up-to-date on city meetings, but customers can get reports as frequently as daily.

 

Curate’s construction data services range from $3,000 per year for coverage near one office location to $30,000 per year for large geographic areas. 

 

Ready to grow your business with local construction project tracking software? Schedule a discovery call to learn how Curate’s project tracking tools can help you find new business.

September 23, 2020

Curate’s new client dashboard makes it easier to track local legislation trends

By Emily Thrasher, Product Manager

Screen Shot 2020-09-23 at 7.07.09 PM

 

For the past year or so, the Curate team has been quietly working on a complete redesign of our client dashboard for local policy tracking, and over the next two months we will roll it out to all of our customers. 

 

When I joined Curate full-time a year ago, we made an important realization: the weekly reports we were sending our customers didn’t tell the whole story about local policy change. 

 

The associations and corporations that use our civic intelligence software need to understand how discussions happening in municipal governments today fit into larger local policy trends. So we’ve rebuilt our dashboard to feel more like a chronological feed that is sortable by topic and location. 

 

With the new design, clients can visually see where discussions are happening around the country, and at a glance see which topics came up within the last week. 

 

This new feature will help all of our clients stay on top of local policy trends and quickly determine whether they need to spring into action to support or oppose an ordinance or resolution.  

 

Say a client is tracking 12 separate policy issues in six states. When they log in to Curate, they’ll see a map of their coverage area with pins dropped on all of the municipalities where one of the topics they cover has recently been mentioned in a meeting agenda or minutes. They’ll also see a listing of all of the topics they cover, and a notification next to each topic indicating how many discussions related to that topic came up in the last week (or whatever time period they select). 

 

 

When they open a topic, they’ll see a chronological feed of related discussions, starting with the most recent on top. Within each document, they can quickly skip through the text to review each relevant mention. 

 

Looking at each topic, clients will immediately be able to understand the history of local discussions on that subject.

 

As we’ve gotten to know our clients better, we’ve learned that not all local policy topics are created equal. Some topics come up every week but don’t require immediate action, while others only pop up every once in a while and demand an urgent response. The new design will help them prioritize their response to discussions on the topics they cover. 

 

Rolling out these major improvements to our local policy monitoring tool is the fun part of working in a startup. We want to make sure the new features we introduce solve problems for our customers, so we created a customer advisory board last year to help us get to know our customers better.

 

That advisory board allowed us to take in feedback from customers about what would make our tool even more useful and translate that feedback into features we could create. Building those features required us to make significant changes on the backend, which led to new realizations about ways we could improve the user experience. 

 

We’ve beta tested the new layout with a few customers, and the feedback has been excellent. Customers say the redesign helps them zero in on what’s important to them faster than in the past. And they love that they can get a bird’s eye view of the history of a specific topic in any municipality within seconds. 

 

When an association wants to update its members on the policy landscape across the state, or if they want to lobby the state government to pass legislation about an issue that is bubbling up at the local level, all they have to do is select that topic from the dashboard and they’ll instantly see the whole history of relevant discussions across the state for the time period they select. 

 

It’s incredibly rewarding to roll the new design out to customers and hear that they love what we’ve built. 

 

Ready to see our new local policy tracking tool for yourself? Schedule a discovery call to see how we can help you transform your local government advocacy program. 

September 14, 2020

Civic Intelligence for Business 101: Why businesses should monitor local policy change

By Taralinda Willis

Policies - Red Ring Binder on Office Desktop with Office Supplies and Modern Laptop. Business Concept on Blurred Background. Toned Illustration.

 

In an effort to leverage technology to build more efficient businesses, many companies are embracing the field of business intelligence, which transforms data into “actionable insights that inform an organization’s strategic and tactical business decisions,” according to CIO.com

 

Typically, business intelligence focuses on gathering information about the internal factors that influence a business’s success. It might take in data such as downtime in a manufacturing line, a sales team’s average call length, or the conversion rate of a website, presenting trends in a visual format so that analysts can identify opportunities to improve processes and outcomes. 

 

But many of the most important factors that determine your business’s success are completely outside your control—things like consumer confidence, weather, and the political environment, particularly at the local level.

 

Local politics has a huge influence on almost every business sector. Local governments set laws concerning tax rates, fees, parking, wages, single-use plastic, animal welfare, signage, disposal of waste, building safety—the list goes on and on. 

 

And yet, so many businesses operate in complete darkness about the local policy environment. They might skim the local newspapers, but they only get involved if an ordinance that could harm their business is on the agenda for a vote at the city council. And at that point, it’s often too late to influence the outcome. 

 

Businesses that build a process for staying on top of local policy changes position themselves to seize more opportunities and prevent changes to local laws that could disrupt their operations. 

 

We call that process gathering civic intelligence. 

 

Civic intelligence refers to actionable insights about the way local politics is shaping the business environment. 

 

What does civic intelligence software do? 

 

Local governments function best when stakeholders are actively engaged in the legislative process. But keeping track of every proposed ordinance is hard enough to do when you only operate in one locality. As soon as your business grows large enough to operate in multiple municipalities, the burden of manually keeping up with local council and committee agendas can become overwhelming. 

 

Even with a full-time government affairs person, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the rapidly changing local policy environment without the help of special civic intelligence tools and software.

 

Curate is the leading provider of civic intelligence software. 

 

Curate uses machine learning to monitor and analyze local government agendas and minutes to give customers an edge with clear, simple, and actionable civic intelligence. Curate empowers businesses to understand and engage with local politics at scale. 

 

There are a variety of tools that provide a great compliment to Curate’s functions, especially for organizations that are tracking legislation at the state and national level or looking to manage grassroots advocacy campaigns all over the country, including Quorum, FiscalNote, Salsa Labs, and NationBuilder.

 

Why is civic intelligence important? 

 

Civic intelligence can help you beat your competition when new business opportunities arise. It can help businesses plan ahead for changes in regulatory environments so they can pivot their business model without experiencing downtime. When municipalities propose changes to local ordinances that would cause your business’s operational costs to rise or that could completely disrupt your business model, civic intelligence helps you weigh in on the topic at the right time to influence the outcome of the decision. 


What are some civic intelligence examples? 

 

Civic intelligence comes in a variety of forms. City council meeting minutes are often full of comments and discussions about hot-button issues that indicate upcoming policy changes or business opportunities. Some examples:

 

  • The first mention in a council meeting that an elected official wants to pass a ban on single-use plastic.
  • A discussion in a committee meeting about increasing limitations on stormwater runoff from new residential construction.
  • An agenda item for a vote on the local rules around short-term rentals.
  • A comment from a member of the public about the rapid growth of the population in a particular neighborhood, which could lead to a need for larger schools in the next five years.
  • A mention in a discussion about how neighboring cities are finding success in attracting businesses with a tax incentive program.

What can companies do with civic intelligence? 

 

When you find a juicy bit of intel in a local government agenda or minutes from a recent meeting, it’s time to spring into action. At a minimum, you might register to speak at the next meeting where the issue will be discussed. But to be even more proactive, you might need to set up a meeting with your local representative to share your opinion on a proposed ordinance. You might need to activate your professional network and give them the background information so that they can also contact their elected officials. If you have a government affairs team, they might launch a full-scale grassroots campaign to bring awareness of the issue to the public.

 

Some pieces of civic intelligence are signs of future business opportunities. Local government meeting minutes and agendas are full of leads businesses can use to grow.

 

Maybe you’re a construction company, and you notice a discussion about planning for a government facility expansion in the next budget cycle. Get ready to prepare a bid. 

 

Maybe you’re a clean energy consultant and you find a discussion about how a city wants to lower its carbon footprint within the next five years. Maybe you’re a restaurant supplier and you see a liquor license application for a new restaurant. These are all opportunities to make new connections that could lead to new accounts or projects for your business.

 

How does civic intelligence help businesses get ahead? 

 

Getting an early warning about upcoming policy change gives you time to weigh in on the change and potentially influence the outcome of a vote. But it also gives you time to prepare your business for the changing business environment. Whether you find exciting opportunities or worrisome policy trends, building a civic intelligence program will make sure your business is positioned to make the best of whatever comes. 


Ready to find out how civic intelligence software could help you grow your business and protect your business model? Schedule a discovery call to learn more about Curate’s local policy tracking tools.

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