At Capitol Impact, recently we’ve been hearing that state funded universities have been dealing with severe budget cuts. Unfortunately, often times the first expenditure on the chopping block is the advocacy program. However, when the legislature feels the need to cut your budget, is this really the time to lower your voice at the capitol? Cuts in your advocacy program now can even effect the support your university will receive in the future. How should your legislative affairs staff handle cuts to your budget and what can you do to improve your bang for your budgetary buck?
In business, a fallacy many companies follow is that when sales are down the first cuts come from the marketing budget. In truth, when business is down it is time to re-evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing, not to cut it entirely. This principle can also be applied to states when budget cuts threaten their advocacy programs. Are you getting the proper value from your advocacy system and does it help get your message to the correct decision makers in the legislature? Are you cultivating and empowering quality supporters? Do you know who your supporters know at the capitol? Are you utilizing your supporters effectively or are you sending out advocacy alerts and hoping that they step forward on their own?
Advocacy is a year round activity. When the legislature is not in session you need to recruit people, learn who they know and how they can help you. When the legislature is in session, you need to keep them informed and know strategically who can help you in different situations. Advocacy is not about large numbers of people making noise, it is about having your message carried to the right people, in a manner that has the outcome you are expecting.
Advocacy is an investment. You need to make sure that it is seen that way and becomes a staple part of the lobbyist’s business process, or you may learn that your advocacy program deserves to be the first budget cut.