How to win friends and influence government
22 February 2021 at 5:57 pm
A new report shares advice on how charities can improve their relationship with all levels of government
With many charities struggling to secure long-term funding, a new report says organisations of all sizes and influence must regularly reassess and strengthen relationships with government stakeholders.
Prepared by government relations expert Neil Pharaoh and published by Perpetual, the white paper explores how NFPs can frame funding and policy asks from a political perspective so that they can achieve genuine impact and systemic change.
It also includes practical advice on how to create a relations plan to suit different organisations, how to structure an organisation to support government engagement, how to frame organisational asks to attract the attention of politicians, and ways of measuring the success of government engagement.
Pharaoh told Pro Bono News that over his career he had seen charities miss out on funding opportunities because they did not have the lobbying skills or power that the private sector did.
“This report is about what we can do to balance the scale and create opportunities for good organisations and good programs to have a profile with government,” he said.
He said that because most NFPs relied on government funding for around half their revenue it was important that they invested the time to understand how to strengthen those relationships, especially in such turbulent times.
“It’s about making sure you’re keeping governments abreast of what you’re doing and also [recognising] the swings and roundabouts of disaster events such as COVID and other government spending,” Pharaoh said.
“This requires as much investment and time and effort as does landing philanthropic funding or other types of fundraising.”
Everyone has a role to play at all times
The report said it was important for charities to embed their government engagement activities throughout the whole organisation – from the CEO to the receptionist who prepared board papers and newspaper clippings.
Pharaoh said that government relationships had to be maintained and checked in on a regular basis.
“Some NFPs think about government relations only when a crisis is exploding around them. When policy or funding decisions are going against them,” he said.
“The worst time to try and influence government is after they’ve made a decision.”
In recent years, more and more charities have been found to be “paying for access” because it’s become harder for them to gain access to decision makers for free.
But Pharaoh said that a lot of lobbyists took advantage of NFP organisations.
“For me, it’s about how we remove lobbyists from this equation and help NFPs to speak more loudly themselves,” he said.
Despite the funding struggles that charities have had in recent times, he said that it was important charities did not become “disheartened” because there were simple solutions to creating a better relationship with government.
“If you invest a bit of time, talent and pressure to do so then you will be able to make your profile known with government,” he said.
Read the full white paper here.