Politicians are just like any other business person. They want to succeed.
Persuading them requires a particular skill set.
So how can you get one to assist with your initiative? Let's start with what not to do. Don't enter the relationship with an attitude of expectation over collaboration.
For example, if you have a great idea, event or a service you believe could benefit a business or community, this does not automatically mean the government should be providing support or funding.
When approaching government at any level, just like in a business relationship, it needs to be with a win-win agenda.
- Have a passion and a purpose
If you believe in your project completely and wholeheartedly, you'll have a better chance of persevering through the process of engaging government.
Hopefully your passion and knowledgeable preparedness of your topic will sustain you through any form of questioning or doubt.
Be warned. You need to stand out! If you are representing a charity or community group, be aware that many are visiting their local MP or councilor on a daily basis asking for help.
So ask yourself, what is it about your project that is different?
- Do your research
The quickest way to get the support of a politician is to link what you want with what they want.
It pays to do your research and find out their hot topics. What do they tend to be in the media about lately. Is there something within their portfolio they have a particular interest in? Maybe they have a history of supporting a particular cause or charity.
The more you know, the more opportunity you have to connect on common ground, creating a greater possibility of a successful win-win situation.
- Put in the effort
Taking the pressure off the elected official is always welcome and it helps to put in the ground work first. This shows the representative that you are committed to your project. Securing funding is a great start, whether it be corporate or community based.
A great way to do this is a three-way funding proposal. One third funding by your own group or contacts, one third funding by a corporate, and an approach to government for the third.
- Check your attitude
The door will be closed quickly behind you if you approach a politician with an attitude or hint that their department is expected to help. Remember, just like a small business owner, they have limited time and limited resources (despite what you may see in the media).
It's smart to approach with a well-prepared proposal on how your project will work for them. How being involved (whether it be financially or just via showing support) will add to their profile and standing within their electorate and/or community.
Have a business case and tips on how media can make the most of it.
- Know the power in numbers
We all know the impact of people power. So to help with your project, put in the time and effort to secure the following before making your first contact.
- Database power. Do you have a large database that supports this project? The bigger the better
- Support from members of another organisation
- Backing by leading organisations that cover your relevant industry
- Support and references by respected high profile individuals and businesses
It is also a good idea to have working relationships with relevant media, ensuring their support on the idea.
- Follow the chain of command
This is important no matter what level of government you're dealing with. Regardless of whether you have a contact at a higher level, follow the chain of command.
This means visiting your council representative, state member or federal member of first. It's a great way (if you've done your research) to get their support so you have a "champion" for your project or cause throughout the process.
- Be realistic and persistent.
Don't expect results overnight. Dealing with government on any level requires a great deal of patience. So don't give up, remain positive and persistent.
Aim for regular meetings with practical outcomes that progressively move your case forward.