Top 10 Tips for a Successful Visit to a Member of Congress
Ten Tips for Contacting Congress Successfully:
- You want to establish and strengthen a relationship with your legislator and his/her staff. You should prepare thoroughly, be polite, be specific as possible, and never threaten.
- Don’t be concerned if you end up meeting with staff rather than your member of Congress. In many cases, this can be equally or more productive.
- Be concise but cover all the points you wish to make. In general, it is best to address a limited number of issues (three maximum). Most meetings last less than 30 minutes, so budget your time wisely and leave time for discussion.
- Explain why this issue is important to you and to the people in your district/state. Speak from your personal experience and illustrate your points with real people and examples, if possible. Explain the consequences that adverse action or failure to act will have on individuals in your state, city or town.
- If possible, cite sources of independent support for your position (e.g., opinion polls, studies, etc.).
- After you make your points, request specific action, and do not be afraid to ask the legislator’s position. If they are currently undecided, ask them to inform you by mail or e-mail when they made a decision, and to tell you why they took the position. If you are asking the legislator to provide leadership in moving something forward, ask him/her to provide you with a response or report on what happens.
- Leave your name, address, e-mail address, affiliation, and telephone number with the member of Congress or staff. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you.
- Follow-up the visit with an e-mail thanking the member of Congress or staffer for their time and briefly summarizing the major issues discussed. Be sure to follow through on any commitments you made and provide any additional information requested. Keep in touch with the member of Congress and staff through occasional correspondence and visits to the local/state office.
- Share your experiences and learnings with us. Let us know if there are follow-ups that we should make. Ask us for help if you need it. Send copies of relevant materials to us also. You are not alone in the fight.
- Remember: Staying power and relationships are keys to accomplishing anything! Stay in the struggle and strive to maintain good communication with your members of Congress.