Skip to Main Content
Resource · Blog

The Ultimate Election-Year Playbook for Government Affairs, Advocacy, & Lobbying

This guide covers the most important aspects of successful government affairs and advocacy work during an election year.

Government affairs election playbook

Back to resources listing

In a fast-paced and highly competitive political landscape, government affairs, advocacy, and lobbying professionals must be prepared to navigate the intricate web of legislative, regulatory, and electoral activities. With a multitude of elections happening this year and the balance of power hanging by a thread, the political environment is more volatile than ever, making it essential for organizations to adapt their strategies to the shifting political dynamics.

This election playbook is designed to equip you with the tools and strategies you need to push your organization's issues forward, engage with stakeholders, and stay ahead of the curve in this crucial election year. 

Stakeholder Engagement

Create a Winning Stakeholder Engagement Strategy in an Election Year

The shifting landscape during an election year requires a strategic approach to stakeholder management to advocate effectively for your organization and its interests.

You can use election years to meet with the multiple candidates running for office to communicate your organization’s mission and goals. There is no need to wait to see who gets elected before you first make contact. By establishing a relationship early, you have more time to build trust and serve as a resource with data and information about the topics that your organization is an expert in.

Here are some best practices for stakeholder management strategies in an election year:

  • Take stock of all of the policy positions/campaign promises a policymaker running for re-election made during their previous campaign. Are any of them yet to be introduced? If so, pay close attention to these and make an action plan if this policy is introduced.

  • Perhaps the most important way to connect with stakeholders is to stay on top of the issues that matter most to them. This isn’t necessarily a constant — issues can change rapidly, so it’s vital to have a system to organize information and stay up-to-date on stakeholder issues.

  • Is the policymaker running for re-election relying on a particular industry group or voting bloc for their current campaign? If so, pay close attention to the priorities of these groups to best position yourself for any potential policy action that may benefit them.

  • What is your own organization’s relationship with said groups? Is there any common ground you could find on policy should something be introduced legislatively? Perhaps your organization could be proactive in your outreach to these groups to mitigate risk or boost your impact. Develop a plan of action for all of these scenarios.

Election Year Scenario Planning: Best Practices For Your Team

Electoral outcomes usually have drastic ramifications on government affairs and advocacy departments influencing priorities, budgets, resources, and staffing. Even though you must maintain operations with the current political makeup, administration, and Congress, the most effective organizations keep an eye on the future possible outcomes.

Your organization should map out and prepare strategies for the potential election outcomes.

Here are three scenarios worth considering for any organization.

Scenario 1: Beware of the Waves

All organizations should have a plan for either party sweeping in November and winning a trifecta of House, Senate, and White House. You should already be creating this plan with existing stakeholders and partisans.

For most organizations, a wave is the biggest risk. If your cause is typically championed by the winning party, you’re under a lot of pressure to get things done. If the party in power is typically adversarial toward your issue or organization, you have a lot to lose.

Scenario 2: Divided We Are

A divided government is often the preferred outcome of many mainstream trade and membership organizations. Working on a bipartisan basis to find common ground will often lead to more creativity in advocacy campaigning, lower expectations, and shifts in policymaking to other levels of government (state and local) or sectors of government (regulatory or courts).

Scenario 3: Status Quo

If there aren’t any major changes as a result of the election, you should focus on engagement to ensure that momentum isn’t lost, advocates are still active, and the cause is top of mind. In this scenario, public relations, media communications, and stakeholder engagement become even more important.

If you were unable to accomplish something last Congress, you need to identify the roadblocks and reattempt to apply appropriate pressure to break the impasse. This can be a daunting task, as political apathy may set in and your priorities may need to be realigned.

Stakeholder Engagement: How to Measure & Report on Relationships in Government Affairs

Stakeholder Engagement: How to Measure & Report on Relationships in Government Affairs

Refine Your Legislative Affairs Strategy

During an election year, it’s even more likely for legislation to get lost in the torrent of news and bills presented at various levels of government, whether you’re tracking legislation at a local, state, federal, or even global level — or sometimes all four at once. But missing important legislation that impacts your organization can devastate your organization’s credibility, stakeholders, and bottom line, as well as your election-year strategy.

Here are three easy steps to prioritize and stay on top of the legislation that matters most this election year.

1. Decide What Legislation Matters Most

It’s nearly impossible to watch all the legislation passing through various governing bodies, especially during a busy election year. Staying narrow and specific on bills of interest is crucial to your tracking strategy. Work with your organization’s leadership to determine the top areas that are most impactful so you know what you need to track. Using legislative tracking software allows you to identify new legislation easily, without having to find it manually by checking state and federal websites daily for updates.

2. Continue to Follow Important Legislation After It’s Enacted

After legislation is enacted, don’t just check it off your list and move on. It can be useful to track it even after it has been enacted since it can impact future regulations. Often, a court challenge is ready and waiting when a bill passes and is signed. In some cases, legislation can be voided entirely. In others, pieces of the law may be nullified or changed.

There’s also the implementation of the law to think about. While bills are often quite specific in some aspects, other areas may be vague, with lawmakers relying on agencies to create regulations that implement the intent of the law. These regulations have their public process you need to monitor.

3. Evaluate Your Efforts

Creating informed, up-to-date briefings or policy reports is likely one of the most visible parts of your job to higher-ups and peers, and it could be what keeps you hired and gets you promoted as it demonstrates the ROI of your team. Using a tool to create reports makes it easy to produce data-driven, visually appealing reports in minutes.

Develop a Comprehensive Legislative Strategy to Push Your Issues Forward

Navigating the legislative landscape during an election year can pose unique challenges. With the stakes higher than ever, it is crucial to develop a robust strategy to push your organization's issues forward. Here are some key recommendations to help you get started and make an impact in this critical time.

1. Determine How to Measure Outcomes

As you draw out your legislative priorities and goals, make sure you associate those with advocacy success metrics you can track. When possible, use hard numbers, though we know that’s not always feasible, so try identifying milestones such as meetings with key stakeholders, or the introduction of specific legislation as your success indicators. Metrics can be subtle but try to be as clear as possible when you lay them out.

2. Identify Influential Lawmakers

While working with those legislators you know could be aligned with your organization is the most common way to move the needle on your issues, you shouldn’t be too quick in dismissing those who oppose them.

This strategy can work in two ways: you can change a legislator’s mind on your issue, or at least be able to show them the value of your issues and why you care so deeply so that they don’t stop your progress so vocally.

3. Participate in Lobby Days

Gathering your organization and advocates either locally, in Washington, D.C., or virtually to meet with lawmakers and get their support for your issues is a powerful tool in your advocacy arsenal. If you have an actively engaged grassroots network, having some of them meet with legislators and tell their stories in their own words is very valuable.

4. Build Coalitions

Building relationships goes beyond lawmakers, advocates, and your internal business partners. You also have to build trust with related organizations and associations that are working on pushing the same issues you are — including, in some cases, your competitors.

There’s strength in numbers and this is particularly true in government relations. Building coalitions elevates and amplifies your voice as an advocate and can show the true value of your issues across different parts of the same spectrum. Make sure you identify opportunities in your legislative strategy to partner with other organizations to champion legislation and move the needle on your issues.

5. Leverage Legislative Scorecards

Amid an election year, understanding how changes in Congress could impact your organization is crucial. Use a legislative scorecard to keep track of your policy champions and know how changes in Congress could impact your organization. Scorecards provide information on the status or progress of politicians and how much they align with your organization. Because it’s important to be unified with your members or supporters, scorecards allow you to rank elected officials based on their voting record. This aligns your organization with your advocates, empowering your supporters to make informed decisions at the ballot box.

As election season approaches, organizations typically compile scorecards to guide supporters on how to vote and communicate with a unified voice.

During election years, a wider array of industries and interest groups becomes the focus of legislative sessions. This presents lobbyists with increased opportunities to proactively attract new clients since a greater variety of interests are engaged in the legislative arena.

Terri Reynolds, Managing partner
Levitate Legal

Lobbying Experts Share Challenges, Opportunities, and Advice for 2024

It’s safe to say this won’t be a boring year for government affairs and advocacy professionals, with more than 40 countries worldwide holding elections. With the disruption of elections comes opportunity. We spoke to lobbying experts for their insights on the top challenges and opportunities facing advocacy and government affairs professionals in 2024.

Election season leads to long-term thinking

With the White House leadership up for grabs, many companies are looking “not to impact policymaking this year but to look smart and be prepared for 2025,” notes Stewart Verdery, founder and CEO of Monument Advocacy. Companies need to be prepared for all scenarios, understand the issues driving the agenda, and stay on top of the 2024 cycle.

Election season opens doors

"During election years, a wider array of industries and interest groups becomes the focus of legislative sessions,” says Terri Reynolds, managing partner at Levitate Legal. “This presents lobbyists with increased opportunities to proactively attract new clients since a greater variety of interests are engaged in the legislative arena."

Heavier workloads

FiscalNote’s 2024 State of Government Affairs Report revealed that government affairs teams are required to keep abreast of a growing number of issues, with 71 percent of professionals seeing an increase in the number of issues they are following, and 27 percent tracking more than 20 issues — no small feat. Globalization and a highly partisan Congress contribute to a working environment where seemingly every update matters, and with an election on the horizon, the workload will likely only grow from here. Leverage the power of AI-based tools to create efficiencies and make workloads more manageable.

Election uncertainty

Uncertainty is a defining element in any election year, and 2024 will be no exception. "Election years always come with national issues invading state space,” says Susan Kennedy, partner at Levitate Legal. “State lobbyists enter the election year sessions expecting more contentious issues that are substantially more partisan driven than in non-election years."

Verdery advises that government affairs teams prepare for every outcome of the election. “Do your work ahead of time to strategize for the results of the presidential, House, and Senate elections will mean, or it will be way too late in November,” he explains. You should get organized early in the year and be selective in your engagements, knowing that a steep workload is coming toward the end of the year. Stay on top of local, state, and national developments and continue building relationships in all corners.

Get face time with lawmakers

“Getting up on the Hill is critical,” says Missy Edwards, founder and CEO of Missy Edwards Strategies. “Staff and members of Congress are eager to hear from industries, and it’s a missed opportunity if you’re not taking advantage of that.” Continue making connections to ensure your industry’s concerns are heard.

Act with integrity

Approaching every relationship with kindness is key, especially in the interconnected world of Washington, D.C. “You literally never know who you are sitting next to and who they know,” says Courtney Snowden, founder and president of Blueprint Strategy Group. “Be careful about badmouthing people, be very kind to people, and do what you say you’re going to do. It makes a huge difference in this business that relies so much on relationships and integrity.”

Start at the state level

“Achieving bipartisanship in a state legislature is sometimes much easier and cost-effective than doing it in the U.S. Capitol,” says Charlie Kolean, president of Strategic Political Management. “If lobbyists have big issues they want to achieve, sometimes it’s easier to focus on state legislators.”

Track, Find, and Report on Your Policy Issues in 60 Seconds

FiscalNote State allows organizations to effectively discover and monitor state legislative and regulatory developments, prioritize outreach, and manage relationships with policymakers.

Hone Your Regulatory Affairs Strategy

Amid the hustle and bustle of election season, it's easy to overlook the critical role that regulatory agencies play in shaping the legal landscape. While the focus often lies on lawmakers, regulatory bodies hold significant power in interpreting and enforcing legislation. Navigating the complexities of federal, state, and global regulatory strategies can be a daunting task, especially in an election year where new leadership changes may impact regulatory priorities.

Regulatory tracking allows you to stay ahead of the process and of new regulations that could potentially impact your organization. Here are four tips to make sure you’re staying one step ahead of tracking, responding to, and influencing the regulations that impact your organization most.

1. Let Information Find You

With a regulatory tracker, you don’t have to search through multiple online state registers — or leave your regular work environment — to stay on top of the regulatory developments that affect your organization. You can access important information on state, federal, and global regulations such as title, publication dates, agency, and receive targeted, timely notifications of newly proposed and final regulations, including comment periods and effective dates.

2. Go Broad to Start

When faced with the question of whether to use a comprehensive search that pulls in too much information or a narrow search that could miss something, some experts say go broad, accept the deluge, and tighten down later. With a regulatory tracking tool, such as FiscalNote, you can search on a database of regulations from over 400 federal agencies, more than 5,400 state agencies, and 20+ agencies worldwide.

3. Keep Track of Your Efforts

Reporting and showing the ROI of your work is vital for any public affairs and government relations professional. Using a regulatory tracking solution, you can easily report out on your individual and team activity to showcase actions related to specific policy areas.

4. Use a Professional Regulatory Tracker

Some things to look for in a professional regulatory tracking platform:

  • Automatically track multiple regulations across issues simultaneously

  • Set up targeted alerts for relevant regulation and receive timely updates on new developments

  • Automatically analyze the content of every comment posted and understand what industry peers and competitors are saying

  • Authorizing legislation: view the federal bill that authorizes the agency to pursue the regulation directly from the docket overview page when available, all in one place

  • News alerts on relevant regulations

Regulatory Affairs Strategy

Get Your Grassroots Strategy Right

A fast-paced election year can be your advocacy organization’s time to shine, with ample opportunities to spotlight issues that matter to voters. With midterm elections right around the corner, it’s essential to be compelling, find community, and stay flexible.

Follow these best practices to tighten your advocacy strategy during an election year to ensure your organization is as effective and impactful as possible.

Tell Compelling Stories

More than ever, compelling stories from members and advocates are critical during an election year when your issues need to get noticed and stand out in a sea of issues vying for attention. These stories can cut through the noise of the elections and quickly get to the heart of the matter. In an election year, it’s vital to spend time training advocates on how to tell a memorable story that is both concise and captivating.

Execute Standout Meetings

Emails, newsletters, and carefully crafted tweets can all make an impact, but nothing goes quite as far as a meeting with lawmakers. While shifting schedules can make in-person meetings a hassle, virtual meetings can also pack a punch.

Whether you plan a fly-in event or conduct smaller-scale outreach, make sure advocates are thoroughly briefed on talking points and equipped with one-pagers before meeting with elected officials. Remember just because meetings with legislators are somewhat the norm for you, some of your advocates may not have had a similar experience before, so training is vital.

Especially during a busy election year, nailing the talking points and making a positive impression is critical. Consider creating fact sheets for advocates with talking points they can quickly refer to during conversations, and hold training sessions with those who may be interested but need to learn more about the most important points to emphasize so they don’t get off-topic.

Leverage Coalitions

An election year is a great time to find organizations doing similar work as yours, join a coalition, or strengthen existing relationships. Whether you are coordinating advocacy days, fly-in events, or a social media hashtag campaign, greater numbers mean a greater result.

Consider building or joining a coalition of like-minded organizations or partnering with a similar organization to accomplish your goals. You can work on tailoring your message together, keep each other informed of important issues or pertinent election news, and have a network of allies to enlist for support in advocacy projects and campaigns.

Evaluate and Evolve as You Go

In an action-packed, ever-changing election year, flexibility is vital. You may need to adapt your strategy as you go based on new developments, changing relationships, or strategies just not resonating with your advocates. Monitor activity, conversion rates, dropoff points, and advocate engagement as a guide to know whether you’re on the right track or need to tweak things.

6 Tips for Communicating Your Get Out The Vote Campaign

Navigating get-out-the-vote (GOTV) campaigns has undergone a digital transformation as advocates and voters adapt to new forms of interaction. This underscores the need for a focused and robust online engagement strategy to effectively communicate with potential voters.

Below are six best practices to get the maximum engagement for your GOTV campaign communications.

1. Make it Personal

Voters and your supporters respond best to other people, whether in their community, workplace, or friends and neighbors. Getting groups of like-minded people involved can help you spread the word and boost your GOTV campaign. Make sure you explain why this election is important, tying it back to the issues your organization and supporters care about.

2. Make it Easy

You want to make it as easy as possible for your advocates to participate in the political process. So make sure to have a central place where people can get all the information you need. VoterVoice’s action center allows you to help your supporters register to vote, find who their candidates are, what their local requirements and deadlines are for absentee or early voting, and what is at stake for your main issues.

3. Designate a Day

Set a date for a big early voting push or for people to register — or both. Make it an event for your organization where people engage in the political process together and feel part of your community.

4. Leverage Volunteers

If you have a few advocates who are high on your advocacy ladder of engagement, ask them if they would like to assist with your get-out-the-vote efforts. This could be as simple as sending a group email to your supporters asking if they want to help others understand the absentee ballot process, for example. Then you can train some of your volunteers to help answer the most common questions.

5. Remind People About Important Dates and Events

While you can direct all your supporters to your action center so they can quickly find all the important election information by their zip code, you can also take a proactive approach and help them remember key dates in their specific location. You can segment your email list by state, for example, and remind your advocates about registration deadlines, absentee ballot processes, local candidate information, and upcoming debates and town hall meetings.

6. Host Virtual Events

Continue building that sense of community by hosting virtual or hybrid events to make participation more accessible for everyone. Consider hosting a debate or town hall watch party and discussion, or a webinar about how your issues play out in the upcoming election.

Grassroots Strategy

Expert Advocacy Tips to Engage Supporters for Your Election Issues

Data & Action-Driven Advocacy

For Gabrielle Jorgensen, co-founder of the public advocacy firm Climate Changemakers, this season provides an opportunity to build on both successful engagement from 2020 and the recent climate deal between Senators Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Joe Manchin, R-W.V. Jorgensen takes an approach based on engagement and action: signing petitions, writing op-eds, and phone banking. “We create easy-to-follow action playbooks,” she says.

Other advocacy organizations rely on a data science approach to find state and local races that will impact their issues. Caroline Spears, head of Climate Cabinet, tracks the voting records of more than 5,000 elected officials across the country and supports the ones making the biggest impact. “We have folks who aren’t on CNN all the time, but if you look at the climate impact, it’s pretty impressive,” she says.

Keeping Advocates Engaged

One of the hardest things about driving engagement and mobilizing advocates is that politics in the U.S. can seem to move at a glacial pace, which can make people lose focus. Elections are an opportunity to drive interest since advocates can see real change being made.

It’s important to communicate your wins to advocates and keep them updated on issues. Regular updates and check-ins, whether a monthly newsletter or quarterly town hall meeting, ensure advocates stay connected and energized.

Communicate With Supporters

Keeping advocates aware and involved is another important job. Social media and smartphones have overtaken direct mail and phone calls. Traditional text messages, as well as group chat applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, can be a means of outreach, as well as allow some two-way communication. Apps that can be accessed from a computer as well as a phone, such as Slack or Discord, might be better for coordinating and managing volunteers.

It’s important to thank advocates often for donating their time and effort. You can offer incentives like special events — an end-of-campaign or election night party, a movie night, conferences, or roundtables — as a reward and a place to seek feedback from advocates.

Create a Winning Election-Year Strategy with VoterVoice

Advocacy success is largely dependent on using the right technology tools. Offering a true end-to-end digital advocacy solution, VoterVoice helps you move the needle on the issues that matter — especially in a busy election year.

VoterVoice empowers your organization to send surveys, newsletters, polls, and updates year-round so that your base has all the information they need to cast their ballot. VoterVoice has everything you need to run a successful campaign and everything your advocates need to stay in the know.

Best Practices for Running a GOTV Campaign

As an advocacy team, shaping policy involves forging connections, inspiring action, and driving voter participation. Download our checklist to make sure you maximize your impact with this year’s get out the vote initiatives.

10 Fundraising Ideas for Political Action Committees

Fundraising is the bread and butter of PAC management, but it takes a lot of effort and creativity to do it — it’s not always as simple as it sounds. Below are 10 fundraising ideas for your PAC, directly from the pros.

1. Payroll Deductions

Payroll deduction is a key PAC fundraising strategy that strengthens donor retention and growth. These automatic deductions make PAC giving easy and predictable.

2. Email Campaigns

Email campaigns are the most widely used PAC fundraising strategy because they are low-budget, far-reaching, and simple. The good thing about online solicitation is that you can get creative with it — try images, videos, GIFs, and more.

3. Direct Mail

While email has widely replaced direct mail, it can still be a very effective PAC fundraising strategy. Email and digital communications are cheaper, faster, and easier to measure and track but, with people being bombarded with emails and ads throughout their day, sometimes the physicality of direct mail can make a bigger impact.

4. Peer-to-Peer Solicitations

Outreach from someone a prospective donor knows and trusts is one of the most effective PAC fundraising strategies — they work because giving is a social act. Peer-to-peer fundraising allows for personal conversations that help peer fundraisers dispel many of the common myths about the PAC, further convincing employees and members of the benefit of contributing to the PAC.

PAC Fundraising with phone calls

5. Phone Calls

While not typically a first step for fundraising outreach, a phone call can be a very powerful tool for PAC fundraising. Taking seasonality into account is important, especially going into an election season where robocalls and text-to-donate hit people hard. Being mindful of when to run phone call campaigns is also important.

6. Corporate Charitable PAC Match Programs

PAC charitable match allows a PAC’s connected organization to match all or a portion of an individual’s PAC contribution to a charitable entity. Organizations have the discretion to make a 1:1 match for all contributions, match only certain contributions, or require a giving threshold before the match kicks in.

7. Text-to-Donate

This strategy is on the more sophisticated side of PAC fundraising ideas because, to do it properly, PACs would need the budget to invest in the technology, testing, management, and tracking of a text-to-donate platform. Additionally, political action committee managers would have to make sure that people volunteer their mobile phone information and that they confirm it is okay to contact them via text.

8. Hosting Dinners and Events

Lunches, happy hours, or speaking events are common means of raising money for PACs. Whether as stand-alone events or as part of a larger organization-wide gathering or tradeshow, hosting events allows PAC managers to raise funds while providing a good networking experience for attendees — especially if there’s a sense of exclusivity to it.

9. Promote Recurring Gifts with Members

Gifts, memorabilia, or insignia are a way to thank donors while also promoting the political action committee with a well-placed logo. The most important thing is to make sure the gift is relevant and fits your organization’s culture.

However, you must make sure to follow the FEC’s “one-third rule,” which impedes a corporation from purchasing gifts (excluding food and beverage) that cost more than one-third of the political action committee’s receipts.

10. Digital Advertising and Social Media

Digital advertising and social media campaigns for PACs can be very effective but there are a lot of compliance considerations to address first. PACs can only solicit funds from a "restricted class,” which for corporations means salaried employees with decision-making authority, shareholders, and these groups’ families. For labor unions and nonprofits, “restricted class” is its membership. Therefore, digital ads need to be extremely well-targeted.

Manage Your PAC’s Compliance & Reporting

PACs are one of the most heavily regulated political activities, with the most stringent reporting requirements in the world, according to the Public Affairs Council. This is why managing one can be a daunting task. FiscalNote's PACbuilder makes PAC management easy, helping you with effective compliance management, reporting, and digital engagement.

Have the Right Tools in Place for an Election Year

FiscalNote has you covered with the most comprehensive suite of products to help you manage your policy issues, engage with key stakeholders, and ramp up your advocacy strategy, just in time for November. Access our news & analysis, tracking, stakeholder management, advocacy, and collaboration tools so you can monitor the entire policymaking world from start to finish.

Ready to see for yourself?

Discover how FiscalNote can help you manage your issues, stakeholders, and team’s efficiency in one powerful platform.

Back to resources listing