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How to Meet with Congress

(Adapted from Friends Committee on National Legislation)

Going on a lobby visit may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Know what to do before, during, and after your visit.

  1. Choose a topic: Your meeting will be most effective if you ask your member of Congress to support or oppose a single piece of legislation. Be clear about what you are asking, re. climate justice,
  2. Decide who’s going: You’re welcome to lobby alone, but most people find it easier to lobby with a small group, and
  3. Schedule your meeting: Call the district office and ask how to schedule a meeting, then follow  their instructions to request a meeting. Most offices ask you to fill out a web form or send an email. Congressional offices receive thousands of contacts a day, so make sure to follow up so your request doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Setting up a meeting at your member of Congress’ local office can be a lengthy and complicated process, but don’t let this obstacle deter you from doing it! If possible, schedule the meeting when the legislator is in town. Making an in-person lobby visit is one of the most effective ways to communicate your concerns to your member of Congress.

Listening to your concerns is part of your representative’s and senator’s jobs – so make your voice heard by scheduling an In-District Lobby Visit. Justin Hurdle provides simple steps to do this here. Using the link, you will be able to find your nearest district office, submit a visit request, and communicate who will be visiting the legislator and why. Being patient, persistent and polite is incredibly important as it sometimes takes seven to 15 contacts with the office before the meeting is officially confirmed. A final step in the process is to confirm your meeting and provide a finalized list of all the people who will be joining the meeting. Remember, the goal is to have a respectful meeting where you make your ask at least three times. And, of course, follow up with an email or a letter thanking the legislator and staffers for their time.

Lobby Visit Roadmap

(Adapted from Friends Committee on National Legislation)

Meeting face-to-face with your members of Congress is the single most effective way to persuade them to support the issues you care about. These meetings let them know that their constituents are paying attention – and that they support peace, justice, and sustainability.

Forming a Delegation:

  • Gather a group of three or more who commit to visiting local offices of legislators
  • Start by designating a group leader and a note-taker.

Group Leader:

Before Meeting

  • Set a pre-meeting date and location with legislator’s office staff,
  • Find out how much time you have for the lobby visit,
  • Decide which issues will be raised as well as the “ask,”
  • Plan who in the delegation will raise which issues; decide how much time will be used for each issue, and
  • Identify an issue for which the legislator could be thanked.

During meeting

  • Introduce members of the delegation,
  • Make sure the ask is repeated clearly several times,
  • Facilitate the flow of conversation among delegation members, and
  • Convey intent to follow up with legislator.

Note Taker:

  • Before meeting, obtain the names and contact information of everyone in the meeting to give to the staffer, and
  • Take notes during the meeting.

Delegation members:

  • Share personal stories about why this issue matters to you. You don’t need to be an expert; your members of Congress work for you and care about your opinions,
  • Telling your story is an important way to connect with the values and priorities our members of Congress care about, and it can help change their minds, and
  • Remember to be polite and respectful! This meeting is part of building a relationship with your member of Congress. Find common ground where you can.

Meeting Agenda

  • Introduce yourselves, starting with the group leader. Explain who you are and your faith/community affiliations. Note-taker gives the staffer a list of your delegation members and their affiliations,
  • Say “thank you” (group leader) – Thank the office for a position the legislator has taken which you support,
  • Introduce the ask (group leader),
  • Tell your stories (delegation members) – Explain why you care about this issue and what it means to your community,
  • Respond to follow up questions and listen (delegation members) – Ask for and listen to the legislator’s or staffers’ responses to your request,
  • Repeat the ask (delegation members) – After your discussion, repeat the ask, give the office a “leave behind” with your asks, and assure follow-up,
  • Thank the office for meeting with (group leader), and
  • Follow up with the staffer (delegation member) – You may want to ask when follow-up would be useful. Otherwise, email the staffer within three days of the visit.

Note: The Friends Committee on National Legislation provides a helpful planning worksheet which is available here.

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1 Comment

  1. madonna buchanan on February 12, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    Let me say this. I have contacted Indiana Senator Mike Braun more times than I can count. He stopped replying to me a long time ago because he supports the person about whom I write. He, along with many others, seem to have the ability to ignore what most God-fearing people would not. A CEO from a Christian organization was recently fired because of his treatment of others. The POTUS acts in a similar manner as that CEO. Yet, so many of his followers tolerate his bullish behavior. I don’t think any number of people meeting with Trump supports would may one bit of a difference. It is going to take a miracle to change the hearts and minds of Trump supporters.

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