Money Talks: How to Get Beacon Hill to Listen

by Claire Gilmore, Account Manager

As the flurry of budget season nears an end, many organizations are reflecting on what went well and what could have gone better regarding various requests for state funding in support of their programs. Did your request for $60,000 to add a new position to your nonprofit get lost among the hundreds of others? Was your request for $30,000 to improve your town’s local park hard for legislators to understand? Here are some tips to ensure success for next year.

Have a realistic ask

Talk through your request internally, as well as with elected officials, to determine what is a realistic dollar figure. Identify how much money you would need for the project, how many staff members it would take to implement, and if this is the best program offering to receive state funding. Think about the dollars you need and how the funding would translate into meeting a public need. If your line item to fund school lunches grew by $200,000, how many more children could you feed? Maybe the annual budget isn’t the best way to go for your program, consider if there are grant opportunities available.

Keep the messaging concise

Clear communication is critical, especially as legislators review ~1,500 amendments each year. Test the messaging within your organization to see if it is easily digestible, with the understanding that legislators only have so much time to review each request. Think of how much you are requesting, who the funding would benefit and what your timeline would be for implementation should the request be granted. Any additional details can be delivered through a one-pager or letter to legislators providing some background. When all else fails: How much funding is needed and what is the impact for their constituents?

Show a plan of action

Show a plan of action…and that you’ve done the legwork. If your budget request is for funding to increase your facility’s capacity, show that you have looked into contractors and pricing to move forward should your request be accepted. Don’t have a plan to operationalize the state funding if you were to receive it next week? Your request will be less competitive than others. Show that you’ve done your research and that you are serious about turning the blueprints into a reality. Elected officials want to know how quickly state funding awarded to your organization will be translated into meeting a public need or service. 

Build support around your ask

Now that you’ve nailed down your ask, you’ll need to identify a legislator to sponsor an amendment on your behalf. Which legislators have interests that align with your organization, do any live in proximity to your organization, and have any been longtime supporters? Which of those supporters have the most clout? Request meetings with legislators to explain what your request looks like, the thought you’ve put into it and follow up by sharing your one-pager for a clear breakdown of what your request entails. This will help you stand out among the other organizations they’ve spoken with.

Determine who you would like your amendment sponsor to be based on how the meetings went and keep in touch with the other supporters as the budget process unfolds. You will want to follow up with other legislators as your amendment is filed so that they can co-sponsor your amendment to show support and give it a better chance of being passed.

To learn more tips and tricks on navigating the state budget process, we hope you consider partnering with Issues Management Group for access to a full-service public affairs and communications team that will provide you with strategic counsel and help you perfect your goals ahead of the next budget cycle.

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