• March 18, 2022

Survey: Top Challenges Facing Government Affairs Teams in 2022

What are the top challenges facing government affairs teams? They may not be what you think. The State of Government Affairs Survey shows that pros are more focused on results than resources.

Government affairs teams are far more focused on getting better results from their advocacy than they are on increasing resources in 2022, according to the latest State of Government Affairs Survey.

When we asked almost 500 government affairs professionals about their top challenges, the difficulty of moving people to action ranked as their number-one obstacle. When we asked what they want to improve this year, strategies to sharpen performance consistently received top billing. The results continue a trend seen in the 2019 survey.

While resources are undeniably linked to results, the idea that teams are focused tightly on their advocacy game reflects a year filled with challenges, from legislative sessions in 46 states to a midterm election in November that will reshape the policy landscape.

To get a sense of how teams are focused in 2022—and how your team compares—keep reading and then download the State of Government Affairs Survey for more insight.

Top Challenges in 2022

We asked what teams feel are the top challenges in 2022 and found that most were more concerned about results and a tough advocacy landscape than they were about a lack of resources. For example:

  • Moving people to take action was the task professionals ranked as their number-one challenge. Almost one third (30%) said it is difficult, and that rose to almost half (46%) among those who work at associations.
  • Pros who work for corporations, which are getting increasingly involved in advocacy, felt the difficult advocacy landscape more acutely. The top challenge was a tie, with 30% saying it is hard to get lawmakers’ attention and an equal number saying the political landscape is unstable. More than one in four (26%) said partisan polarization makes it hard to communicate.
  • Staffing ranked as the second-largest challenge among all respondents at 27%. However, that is down from the 2019 survey, when it was ranked number one, and it is only part of the picture.
  • Four of the top five challenges cited by advocacy professionals relate to a tough advocacy environment. While moving people to action was the number-one challenge and staffing was number two, teams also said it’s hard to get the attention of lawmakers and other decision makers (24%); that partisan polarization makes it hard to communicate (24%); and that the political landscape is unstable (21%).
  • Funding was ranked 10th as a top challenge, with only 13% calling it out.

 

Survey: Top Challenges Facing Government Affairs Teams in 2022

Top Priorities in 2022

We asked what areas teams will focus on for improvement in 2022 and, again, the answers might not be what many would anticipate. Improving performance was prioritized over obtaining more resources. For example:

  • Explaining why their issues matter was the number-one priority for most organizations. More than half of all respondents (53%) said this was the top area for improvement in 2022. The number rose to 59% among those working at nonprofits and 63% among those at associations.
  • Recruiting more advocates (47%), delivering more personal stories to policymakers (42%), finding more effective tactics (41%) and reaching more public officials directly (38%) rounded out the top five priorities among all respondents.
  • While nearly a quarter (24%) said obtaining more funding and staffing is a top priority this year, that did not break into the top 10.
  • Other areas of operational improvement scored higher than resources. For example, 38% said they want to do a better job tracking bills and regs; 33% want to leverage technology more effectively; and 31% want to do a better job showing the value and ROI of their program.

 

Survey: Top Challenges Facing Government Affairs Teams in 2022

Staffing Versus Funding

Of course, resources are important and they did get a nod from government affairs pros who participated in the survey. However, when they did cite resources, it was clear they felt very differently about funding and staffing.

Funding was not cited as a major problem. About 16% of those who work at nonprofits said lack of funding was a top challenge and that group scored it highest in the survey. By contrast, only 7% of corporate professionals said their team was underfunded.

Staffing was a different matter. As mentioned, staffing ranked as the second-largest challenge among all respondents at 27%. Among nonprofits, it rose to 37% and even one in five corporate professionals (19%) cited it as a challenge.

The focus on staffing reflects the need for many teams to do more each year. Almost two thirds currently focus on state legislatures (63%) and Congress (60%) as a top priority; almost half focus on federal regulations (47%) and state agencies (45%); and nearly a third (32%) get involved in policy at the local level.

It also points out that there is room for modernization at many organizations. Technology can help shorthanded teams raise productivity by increasing situational awareness and automating manual processes. Yet the survey shows that many teams have been slow to adopt these technologies.

For example, when asked how they keep up to date on bills and regulations, fewer than half (45%) said they are using professional legislative tracking software. Even among associations, which had the highest adoption rate, one third still neglected to do so.

To learn more opportunities to gain an edge, and to benchmark your team against how others are performing, download the State of Government Affairs Survey. Meanwhile, we’ll be releasing more results in the days ahead.

Next up: how political polarization is making advocacy harder.