For startups developing innovative technologies or nonprofits creating innovative programs and services, thinking big is the norm. Thinking of meeting with elected officials, accessing government funding and determining market opportunities through public policy might not be. But if you’re not engaging with Congress, federal agencies or state and local offices, you're leaving opportunities on the table — opportunities that your competition are exploiting simply because they know who to talk to and when and how to ask for help.
Relationships alone can be vital to business growth.
When you take the time to get to know your state representative and senator, governor, Member of Congress and agencies at all levels of government, not only do you build a powerful and well-connected network, you also learn key insights into how these systems work, how policies impact you, how to pursue new opportunities and how you can shape these. Tips for developing government relationships include:
- Remember the constituents rule — As a constituent, government officials will respond to you, meet with you and try to help you. Contact the office stating you are a constituent seeking to discuss a topic and you will be connected with the right staff. If an investor or member of your board knows the legislator already, that relationship can be key to starting your own.
- Nail the elevator pitch — Be succinct and listen. It is key to communicate in a simple way what you do, how many you employ, and where you're located. Read up on and pay attention to their priorities, timing and opportunities so you can address these in your pitch for greater influence. More importantly, consider how you can explain in two minutes the problem you are addressing, the unique solution you offer (backed by statistics/data), and the results you will provide if a policy is changed or funding is allocated.
- Staff are key — Even if you can’t meet with an elected official, meeting with their staff or agency program manager can be as powerful or better, as staff are often the experts. They have key knowledge and contacts that can help, whether by making connections to others in government and potential customers, or by providing insights on funding or strategic collaborations.
There are tens of thousands of untapped grants and contracts available for businesses and nonprofits.
While nonprofits can apply for grants on their own, they can also partner with companies. Most bioscience and high-tech innovators are already familiar with SBIRs/STTRs for small businesses within the federal departments. However, most are unaware of the program announcements, broad agency announcements, contracts and new consortium funding streams on offer through the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Some grants are announced every spring, others are rolling each year with broad areas of interest, and still others are only available for a limited amount of time for businesses with a narrow focus.
Knowing the timing, topics and preferences for these opportunities — and most of all, what it takes to succeed in securing these highly competitive sources of funding — comes from the relationships you develop and the understanding of these application systems that you gain through them.
You have the power to change policies and regulations.
Thousands of bills move through Congress every two-year session. The 12 appropriations bills and the National Defense Authorization Act are legally required to be crafted, passed and enacted every year. These are already-moving vehicles in which to add language and funding directives to address the very problems you have pointed out as you have built your government relationships. Congressional offices welcome input from experts like you on changes that need to be made to better address the real-world problems that impact the people and businesses these offices serve. They are particularly interested when you are a constituent. By maintaining the relationships you have developed, you can serve as a valuable resource over time on these issues and influence these and other policies, regulations and funding levels that support your goals.
Relationships, grant and contract funding, and the power to influence all can foster growth for businesses and nonprofits, help remove obstacles, and make systems work for you. Get involved and accelerate your growth. G2G can help. Contact us >