Lobbying vs Grassroots
July 25, 2005
Like corporations, many higher education institutions are investing significant resources into lobbying firms as a way to get their messages to the federal government. An article in the Lexington Herald Leader describes how both large and small colleges in Kentucky have felt the pressure of declining state funding and are looking for new sources of revenue in Washington DC.
Unfortunately, many institutions overlook another tactic that is cheaper and more effective. Engaging alumni, faculty, staff, students and parents in building grassroots support for the University's legislative agenda can be a powerful force at state capitols and even at the federal level. If institutions just invested a small percentage of their lobbying dollars in grassroots activities they would be in a much better position at the legislature and Congress.
Corporations have realized that traditional lobbying techniques are no longer as effective as they used to be. In the last 10 years corporations have made significant investments in developing strong public affairs and grassroots programs. They have recognized the value in having customers and employees in contacting state in federal officials in advancing the companies legislative agenda.
A good example of this is Southwest Airlines recent website – Set Love Free. This campaign is working to reverse the Wright amendment which limits Southwest's ability to expand at its home base of Love Field.
Some higher education institutions have begun to realize the power of the grassroots by creating programs to engage the University communities. Many of the Universities in Kentucky, that the articles examines, actually have grassroots programs.
View their website here:
University of Kentucky - http://www.uky.edu/Government/UKAN.html
Western Kentucky University - http://www.wku.edu/govrelations.html
University of Louisville - http://php.louisville.edu/alumni/advocates/
Although these programs just scratch the surface of what is possible with grassroots programs. In order to be more effective these institutions need to take their programs to up another level to make them truly effective. By just making a few changes to their programs they can create the tipping point. We will examine how you create the tipping point in the coming weeks.