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Phone2Action Rides Tidal Waves of Civic Engagement in 2020

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A global pandemic, nationwide social-justice campaigns and a contentious presidential election: 2020 threw three curveballs at Rosslyn-based startup Phone2Action.

“What a year, right?”

That is Jeb Ory, the founder of Phone2Action, which offers software that promotes civic engagement through mobile phones. Last week he announced that his company is acquiring fellow startup GovPredict, following 10 months of user engagement levels that his staff have never seen before.

“We have had far and away record usage of our software this year,” he said.

Ory called the acquisition of GovPredict a “natural fit” and a “game changer.”

Founded in 2015, GovPredict builds software for nonprofits, lobbying firms, campaigns and corporations. Acquiring the startup will help both companies stay ahead of trends in digital advocacy, he said.

“It became so clear that if we were to combine forces, we would be able to solve challenging problems for our clients, to help them do their jobs better, to have better policy campaigns and make better decisions,” he said.

Unlike Phone2Action, which Ory said had a very active office culture until the shutdown orders, GovPredict has a 100% remote workforce, with many staff in the D.C. area. The 1500 Wilson Blvd office will remain Phone2Action’s headquarters as it continues offering its hybrid home-office work plan to its 160 employees. The company grew by 60 with the acquisition.

Phone2Action’s software proved to be what associations, nonprofits and organizations needed to inform and “activate” people from a distance during the COVID-19 relief efforts this spring, the social-justice initiatives this summer and the election campaigns this fall.

During the week leading up to the passage of the CARES Act, Phone2Action saw 1.5 million people advocate for policies, most of them new to their clients.

When restaurants closed, the National Restaurant Association rallied industry members to share their stories with lawmakers, he said. Another client, the American Nurses Association, changed the conversation around what personal protective equipment is and how to make sure hospitals have them.

“We saw massive engagement because regular people understood how serious this is,” Ory said. “Whatever the role, they wanted to pitch in.”

Phone2Action saw another wave of engagement after the police killing of George Floyd. During the summer of social-justice campaigns and protests, nonprofits saw spikes in online and offline engagement.

This fall, more than 10 million people visited Phone2Action’s customizable “Get Out the Vote” centers. One client, Headcount, ran celebrity-promoted voter registration drives that saw hundreds of thousands of new voters register.

“It’s been exciting and humbling to be a part of,” Ory said. “These issues are life-and-death for so many people.”

The pandemic has also changed Phone2Action’s work culture for the better, he said. With some employees fully remote before the pandemic, and others in the office full-time, the company has had a chance to evaluate what each worker needs to succeed, without priority being given to those who happened to be in the office.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge how fortunate we are to” be able to work remotely, he said.

Photo courtesy Phone2Action

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