Setting your 2020 vision for government engagement – a checklist

As we kick off a new year, our Head of Engagement Andrew Blyberg looks ahead to the federal budget and shares a checklist to help not for profits craft a clear vision for 2020.

Many organisations will have had a busy end to the year, rushing to get their federal pre-budget submission in before Christmas. For those that didn’t, the deadline was extended to the end of January, so you still have time. Either way, now is not the time to rest on your laurels and wait to see what the budget brings in May.

As we emerge from the holiday break and kick off a new year, it is critical that we take the time to craft a clear vision for 2020. If you’re not sure where to start, here is a checklist to get the ball rolling.

Set your objectives

You should already be thinking about your organisation’s key goals beyond the 2020 budget. Your budget submission may or may not contain your entire advocacy agenda, but it is worth thinking about how that might evolve depending on the budget outcome and how to build a case for your medium to long-term goals. It may be that briefing MPs or pushing for a Senate inquiry in 2020, will lay the foundations for a budget ask in 2022.


Many not for profits have a laundry list of objectives, but you need to pick a select few as your short-term priorities. A good strategy begins with understanding what you’re not going to do. Because if you try to do everything, you will likely achieve nothing. There are no hard and fast rules about how to choose your advocacy priorities, but I would start by considering if any are critical to your organisation’s future and then considering if any align with the government’s agenda.

Spruik your budget asks

You put so much effort into preparing a pre-budget submission for the government to consider, now is the time to share it with the world. If you can bring media attention to your issue or organisation and explain what you are looking for from the government, it may help get your proposal over the line. Explain your budget asks to your stakeholders and give them opportunities to support your advocacy efforts, through social media for example.

Respond to the budget

It is important to plan your response to the budget, whether or not you get what you wanted. Over time you want to create an expectation that there is a political cost or benefit to the government depending on how it responds to your budget requests. You can do this by responding publicly through the media or privately to your stakeholders, so long as you make it visible to the relevant politicians or advisers.
Start lobbying for the next one – If you didn’t get what you wanted, are ready to move onto your next advocacy priorities or haven’t put in a submission, the good news is that the process of lobbying for the 2021 budget will start the day after the 2020 budget is handed down. Putting in a pre-budget submission without engaging with the government rarely yields the desired result. If that’s what your organisation has done in the past, now is the opportunity to step things up by laying the groundwork earlier in the process.

Create engagement opportunities

If you are looking for opportunities to build a relationship with a particular MP or minister, you may need to create it yourself. The easiest way to get a politician to engage with your organisation is to offer them an audience they can communicate with. Whether it be through inviting them to speak at an event or conference, write an article for your supporter newsletter or participate in a social media-friendly activity, offering access to a new constituency is one of the key assets you can leverage.

Find a new dance partner

It can often be easier to extract commitments from either side of politics during an election year but that is not on the cards federally in 2020, unless something unforeseen occurs. So, it is worth considering whether any of your objectives could be supported at a state or territory level as there will be elections in Queensland, Northern Territory and the ACT this year, and West Australia is heading to the polls early next year. Depending on your organisation, support from your local council might be extremely important so don’t forget that local government elections are scheduled for a number of states in 2020, including NSW and Victoria. The important thing is to take a holistic approach and search for any opportunity to pursue your advocacy priorities.

Read the full article on Pro Bono.


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