Reaching Our Grassroots Potential

Posted by David Pinkham on July 21, 2014

Having lived in and around major cities my entire life, I was never able to fully grasp the scope and true impact of our industry. Even after I started working at the Auto Care Association, it wasn’t until I began to visit members and travel on my own time to the rural areas and small towns where our members operate, that I came to the realization that our industry’s shops, stores, factories and warehouses could be found in nearly every town, county and district, no matter how isolated. Plus, in many cases, the auto care industry offered some of the best jobs in town and those working these jobs tended to be very much in tune with the happenings of their small communities.

Sure, the national industry stats — the 4.2 million jobs, $318 billion in sales, 2.2 percent of U.S. GDP, etc. — effectively illustrate our industry’s immense size and huge positive impact on the U.S. economy. However, one of our real strengths, from a political influence perspective, is that you’d be hard-pressed to find a federal or state legislative district that does not have an auto care business within its borders. Locating and fully harnessing these potential grassroots resources has always been our most difficult task, but one that is critical to the future success of the association’s government affairs agenda.

As you might have guessed, political advocacy in this country, similar to merchandising and distribution, has reached a point where data drives everything. It separates the most effective association government affairs programs from the least effective. Last summer, we began talking to a small segment of our most active members to get a sense of whether they could provide value to our grassroots program beyond what they had already offered. We attempted to gauge to what extent they were (1) politically active and (2) had relationships with federal or state elected officials. What we found was that even the members we worked with on a regular basis were more politically active in their communities than we previously thought or had relationships with key legislators that we had no idea existed. Our goal from there was to try to expand our efforts to survey a larger segment of our membership and provide an easy, quick medium for anyone to share this valuable information with us.

Therefore, this week, we will be deploying a new survey, which will serve to provide us with more information on our members than ever before. The survey, which will be sent out to the entire Auto Care Association membership, will ask very straightforward, non-intrusive questions including:

  • Which issue do you think is currently the most important facing the auto care industry?
  • How active have you been in federal, state or local politics?
  • List any officials with whom you have a relationship, either directly or through their staff.

Our goal is to ask these important questions so that when an issue arises and we find that we need to get in touch with a particular elected official, we are immediately aware of an individual from our industry who either knows that official personally or who is simply a passionate, well-connected constituent who wants to help. Please remember that all information provided through the survey will not be used in any way other than to assist in the Auto Care Association’s advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and in the states. We will not leverage your relationship with a particular legislator beyond a simple reference without first contacting you.

The survey is 18 questions and is comprised of mostly simple multiple choice questions. Please contact us at or 240-333-1028 if you have any questions, or if you prefer to provide us with this information over email or phone.

Thank you in advance for your participation.

Keywords: Grassroots, Lobbying