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Low Budget High Impact.

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Copyright American Society of Association Executives Aug 1999

"Connecting with elected officials isn't always about money; it has much more to do with cultivating longterm relationships," stated Carl Silverberg, a member of ASAE's Legislative Summit Committee and moderator of the recent ASAE Legislative Summit breakout session "OnePerson GR Shop: Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck." Presenters Gary Nordlinger, president, Nordlinger Associates, ( and Howard Marlowe, president, Marlowe & Company, (marlowe@mail. both of Washington, D.C., discussed five ways associations with significant government relations needs but limited resources can still develop effective government relations programs.

1. Understand the legislative process. Learn all you can-from seminars, the press, and experiences of peers-about how the legislative process works. And always be attuned to breaking events and analyze how they'll affect your membership.

2. Build a relationship. The most important resource to a legislator is time. To cultivate a longterm relationship, start by making your message short, direct, and on point. Take the time to find out what is in the legislator's best interest as well. Once you've made face-to-face contact, stay in touch: Send a thank-you note, identify the staff member who will be working on your issue and follow up often with him or her, "accidentally" bump into members of Congress, and generally be persistent.

3. Involve members more effectively. With the advent of e-mail, grassroots efforts have been gaining momentum. Organize your members, their employees, and your suppliers not only to use the Internet to reach legislators, but to pay local visits. Can't make it to Washington? Remember that the most important contact with a federal legislator is made at the district office-legislators want to hear what is going on in their districts from those who live there.

4. Build coalitions to increase clout. Put together permanent coalitions of other likeminded groups and come up with common strategies. You gain synergy when working with five or six other groups-and you expand your outreach through networks of the other groups' members.

5. Budget, plan, and assess your results. Government relations departments often are relegated to the bottom of the budget barrel because they are not revenue centers. If you can prove that your efforts affect members and add perceived value, you may be rewarded with a larger budget. Do this by pleasing your members (inform them of results by e-mail lists, e-mail, or Web site postings), communicating



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