From the annual budget to special projects throughout the year, government affairs professionals often have to ask for money. It’s just part of the job.
But for people who work in politics and policy, that’s not always an easy thing to do. The reason is simple: they don’t have the same business background as executives from other departments.
“Government Affairs professionals usually come to budget meetings wearing their government hats and not their business hats,” said Jace Johnson, vice president of global government relations at Adobe. “They almost never tie the policy goals back to the company goals.”
Johnson assembled a set of steps that government relations professionals can take to create a two-page proposal that contains an effective business case for funding. He recommends steps teams can take to sell that case within their organization. Johnson’s ideas are available in Phone2Action’s latest guide, How to Increase Your GR Budget.
“The reason your budget requests are getting turned down is you don’t know how to make those requests in a way that business leaders understand,” Johnson said. “Follow these steps and I guarantee your next ‘ask’ will go much, much better.”
Creating a Plan to Increase Your Budget
Johnson recommends a six-step plan to create a business case for your funding request, which will resonate with leadership.
- Step 1: Map Your Stakeholders. As a team, make a list of the internal stakeholders you work with on projects and activities, including the people in finance and the c-suite who make decisions about funding.“It’s actually not that different from the kinds of work you create as a lobbyist,” he said. “You’re trying to convince a group of readers to do something. In order to convince them, you have to carefully craft arguments that will win them over, get the right meetings to build support, and make sure that when the vote happens, you already know what the outcome will be. I tell my staff all the time that what we’re doing is lobbying for money. It’s just that simple.”
- Step 2: List Shared Problems. In this step, you identify the goals and problems you have in common with each stakeholder, the items that you both want to address. These meetings are vital to building your network of support. They will give you an understanding of the problems facing your colleagues and how those relate to your funding request.“If you can identify problems that are shared across more than one department … you’ve found strategic issues that affect the company, not just your specific niche within the company,” Johnson said. “The broader the problem and the more global the solution, the greater the likelihood of it getting approved at higher levels.”
- Step 3: Rank Problems by Impact. This may seem obvious, but it is important to rank your shared list of problems by impact on the company. This will function as a priority list, letting you know which solutions would have the greatest impact.
- Step 4: Get An Executive Sponsor. Just like in politics, having a champion with enough influence to sway others is a key to success. You need an executive sponsor with more influence than your team has to help make your argument. In most cases, this will be the top person on your stakeholder map. If that person does not have enough influence to carry your proposal across the finish line, then you have work to do, creating a relationship with someone who does.“Your executive sponsor needs to buy into your idea and really drive it up and across the organization,” Johnson said. “The more power they have, the more budget they control and the more likely your chances of success are.”
- Step 5: Craft Your Narrative and Collect Data. Just like you would when you make a case to lawmakers or regulators, you need to craft a compelling story and then back it up with data. If either of these are underdeveloped or absent from your presentation, you risk losing support.“Neglecting either of these two components is a common mistake that can kill your budget request,” Johnson said. “I see it happen all the time. Your narrative is where you tie together all of the data points and demonstrate to senior leadership exactly how this project solves shared problems and benefits the company as a whole.”Data is no less important. “Your data is the proof that this isn’t just something you want, but rather something that is objectively true,” Johnson said.
- Step 6: Write Your Two-Page Business Plan. When all that work is done, you are ready to write. Johnson recommends that teams have the discipline to keep it to two pages, which will be handed to the executives who weigh your proposal and will guide your presentation should you have to deliver one. While it may be tempting to write more, Johnson argues against it. “Nobody is going to read anything longer than that,” he said.
“Following a step-by-step approach is important,” said Jeb Ory, chief strategy officer at Phone2Action. “It’s easy when schedules get busy to let a budget presentation slide and deliver something that looks a lot like last year’s. But that’s not a formula for success. When GR teams treat this like a campaign, they adopt the right mindset, put in the time and often get what they request.”
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