GUIDE FOR MEETINGS WITH ELECTED OFFICIALS
 

 

 

Meeting with your Member of Congress is a lot easier than you think.  It is critical that you meet with your elected representatives to:

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Here are some hints for scheduling, preparing for, executing, and following up on a meeting with your Member of Congress:

Requesting your meeting

  • Locate the contact information for your Member of Congress's office. You can find it online at Congress.org. 

 

  • Make your request using the preferred method of your Member’s Office.  Some offices have a meeting request form on their website while others prefer you to email it to a specific email address.  If you don’t know, call the general office number to find out the preferred method of requesting a meeting.  It’s important that you don’t send your letter or email to a general mailbox.  Those inboxes are not checked regularly, and you will not receive a prompt response. 

 

  • Follow up with a phone call.   Ask to speak with the Scheduler.  Let them know that you submitted a scheduling request on x date and are following up to make sure they received it.  Make sure they know that you are a constituent along with any other important identifiers. Schedule a time and date for your meeting.  If you can, be flexible on your meeting date. If you are flexible on the date, you may improve your odds of getting a face-to-face visit with the legislator.

 

  • Confirm the meeting on the day prior to the meeting.

 

Prepare for your meeting

 

  • Bring materials to the meeting that you can leave with your elected official.

  • Decide who will attend the meeting. Bringing more than four to five people can be hard to manage. Try to bring people who represent different groups and who have personal stories to tell like program sponsors, volunteers (on their own time), beneficiaries of service, and community advisors.

 

  • Agree on talking points before the meeting. It's tough to make a strong case if your group is disagreeing during the meeting. Make a list of key arguments ahead of time and if you can't agree on a point, then don’t discuss it.

 

  • Plan out the meeting. People can get nervous during the meeting and time is limited. Be sure to discuss who will say what ahead of time, including who will start the conversation. Here are some suggestions on different roles people can play during the meeting. 
     

    • Meeting Leader – leads the meeting or facilitates the site visit.  

    • Local Impact Speaker – It will be good to have at least one person who can personally speak to what community impact will be lost if funding for national service is reduced. How many organizations would not be able to operate? How many people would stop receiving help from the non-profit community and have to turn to already strapped local and state governments for help?  If you don’t know state or district-wide statistics, speak to what you know. 

    • Local Stories of Service – Identify individuals who have served a RSVP volunteers. They should talk about their experiences serving local community and how volunteering has affected them, personally. If you are doing a site visit this can be a current volunteer, as long as they don’t advocate for national service but simply share their story of service. 

    • Recipients of Service – Folks who receive food, get rides to doctors, veterans and their families principals can talk about how RSVP has helped them as well as impact of what will be lost if these programs didn’t exist.

    • Photographer – One person needs to be tasked with taking pictures of the site visit or meeting. Share the photo with Member of Congress or their staff.  Use it on your website and in your newsletter.
       

  • Decide what you want to achieve.  Meetings are about relationship building.  You are there to educate your Congressperson about your program and the service you provide.   Remember that you are educating them and helping them, be more effective. You should end every meeting with an ask.  Asking your Member of Congress or their staff person to do something specific will help you know if your meeting was successful. 

 

  • Be prompt and patient. Elected officials run on very tight schedules. Don’t be late.

 

  • Keep it short and focused. You may have 20 minutes or less with a staff person and as little as 10 minutes if you meet with your Member of Congress. Make the most of your time by sticking to the topic and discussing your main points.

 

  • Bring up any personal or professional ties that you have to the elected official. Start the meeting by introducing yourself and thanking the legislator for any support he or she has displayed for national service or related issues. Also thank your legislator for taking the time to meet with you.

 

  • Stick to your talking points! Stay on topic and back them up with a small packet of materials that you can leave with your elected official.

 

  • Provide personal and local examples of the impact funding cuts to date have had on your program or the service community in your area.  If you haven’t experienced a reduction in funds, explain what is at stake for your organization if Congress should cut deeper or eliminate CNCS.  

 

  • Saying "I don't know" can be a smart move. You don't need to be an expert on national service that you are discussing. Never make up an answer. Giving incorrect information can damage your credibility. Instead, offer to get the information to them. 

 

  • Set deadlines for a response. Often elected officials will not commit to taking action during a meeting. If they say that they need time to consider, set a timeline for when they will get back to you with a decision. If you are meeting with a staff member, ask when they will get back to you with the Member of Congress’ response to your request. 

 

  • Ask what additional information would be helpful. This provides a natural vehicle for follow-up. 

 

After the meeting

 

  • Compare notes. Promptly after the meeting, discuss what the elected official committed to do and what follow up information you committed to send. 

 

  • Send in Pictures. Use any pictures from the meeting or drop-off.  Post them to social media as a way to showcase your efforts. 

 

  • Send a thank-you note.

 

 

  • Tweet a thank-you. Each person in your group who uses twitter should send the Member of Congress a tweet thanking him or her for taking the time to meet with you. 

 

  • Follow up in a timely fashion. If the elected official or staff member does not meet a deadline for action that you agreed on during the meeting, ask him to set another deadline. Be flexible but persistent.