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orporations pushing a business agenda aren't the only ones who hire lobbyists.  Universities, unions and some public school boards hire lobbying groups. College officials and lobbyists cite many considerations about whether to hire a firm - and if so, which one - and what to expect. 

Here are a few questions to consider:

Does my organization/college need a lobbyist at all?

Many colleges lobby in Washington with a single goal: getting Congress to give them earmarks in annual appropriations bills. 

Colleges administrators who come from states with large Congressional delegations may also need help in maintaining regular contacts with all of the lawmakers who can do them some good.  Colleges, for instance, often ask their Congressional representatives to write letters to appropriations committees in support of earmarked funds for specific projects.

"If we're going to compete with the rest of the universities in the state and across the country, every member of our delegation should know what our university is about and we are a statewide asset," says Richard L. Bucciarelli, associate vice president for health affairs for governmental relations at the University of Florida, a state that has 25 representatives and two senators.

Does my organization need an outside lobbying firm?

Contract lobbyists say they can offer things that an in-house lobbyist can't.  Some firms assign multiple employees to work with a single client.  Organizations using in-house representatives typically employ just one or two to do the work.  Experienced firms can show the ropes to organizations that have never tried to lobby in Washington.

What's more, on average, lobbying firms appear to cost less than in-house efforts do.  In part that is because the firms can spread their office and administrative costs over multiple clients. In 2003, 61 colleges reported paying $184,000, on average, for their own employees to lobby.  By comparison, institution that hired lobbying firms paid an average of about $89,000.

What kind of firm should we hire?

Opinions and tastes vary.  Some colleges favor lobbying firms that are big and well known in Washington. 

Other officials say they prefer lobbying firms with smaller client lists because, they believe, each client gets more personalized service and attention.

Regardless of whom they hire, organizations should remember that they can't expect a lobbyist to accomplish their goal themselves. 

"The colleges that achieve the most success do more than simply write out checks, they actively participate in the process to present their requests to lawmakers", says Daniel T. Neary, senior vice president for college advancement at Northwest College.




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