By Constance Campanella, President and CEO

Most economic signs are brighter than they were at this time last year. But, for many corporate and association state government relations (SGR) programs, those brighter signs are cold comfort when facing another, lower budget for State Government Relations.

Regardless of the importance of the SGR mission, budgets are going to influence how much you can accomplish. Let’s face it; there is only so much you can leverage through your $2,000 membership in the state trade association.

So, what are some options when facing an even smaller budget?

1. Remember, the value scale is always tipped in favor of victories that add REVENUE to the company. Avoided costs, long term relationship building and the like are things we know are valuable, BUT, in lean-mean times, it is the REVENUE-GROWING wins that will be recognized first. If you have such goals in your basket, reach for them first.

2. Negotiate. Everybody felt the recession and understands that corporate and association budgets have taken some serious hits. Do not be afraid to negotiate for more services, a stepped down membership fee, a flexible retainer or longer payment schedule. You may not succeed, but chances are that your lobbyists, Groups friends, consultants and other vendors will work to keep your business, even at a lower financial level.

3. Show them the LOBBYING. Next year’s budget is just around the corner. Build a better foundation for your program even in tight times. We do become immune to how interesting our jobs are. Many others with whom we work (or work for) are not so blasé about interacting with Governors, Attorneys General, Speakers, Senate Presidents and other senior government officials on a day to day basis. If you want your senior management to “get” what you do and be more of an advocate for your program, take them along. Take them to a Groups meeting or to your home state capital and let them see up close how you advocate and build recognition and respect for your organization.

4. Finally – Consider improving your Legislative and Regulatory Monitoring. When you do not have extra staff to “fill in the blanks” left by web searches or keyword search databases, high quality Legislative and Regulatory Monitoring Services can make a huge difference and even reduce your need for lobbyists. Yes, these are services we offer at Stateside, but we also use them in our capacity as issue managers for clients. The eight issue managers at Stateside Associates spend very little time running down information ourselves because we have these excellent information resources at our fingertips. That makes us a lot more efficient and capable of focusing on more highly valued work. We certainly would not want any less for our clients.

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