Effective Meetings with Members of Congress
June 24, 2005
A face-to-face meeting with a member of Congress is one of the best ways to influence his or her position. Below are some tips to help you prepare and plan for your next meeting with a member of Congress.
Before the Meeting
- Determine who should participate in the meeting. Having your state League President at the meeting in addition to a League member who is knowledgeable about the issue is ideal.
- Make an appointment. Contact the Senator or Representative's office and schedule a meeting through the Appointment Secretary. Tell the Secretary the issue you want to discuss and who you represent. Provide the Appointment Secretary with the names of every League member that will be participating in the meeting.
- Determine your message. Be prepared to offer responses to common arguments against the League positions. Be sure you know the name of the bill and the bill number, if applicable.
- If more than one person is participating in the meeting, designate one person to lead the discussion and another to listen carefully.
- Contact the LWVUS Grassroots Lobbying Coordinator, Angela Canterbury about background information to leave with the member of Congress or his/her legislative aide. You may contact Angela at (202) 263-1328 or ACanterbury@lwv.org.
During the Meeting
- Arrive on time. Members of Congress and their staff are busy and do not have time to wait for appointments.
- Be patient. Schedules change and meetings run over time so you may have to wait to meet with your Senator or Representative.
- Make a connection at the beginning of the meeting. If the Member has voted correctly on a League issue, thank him or her. Thank the Member for his/her time.
- State the reason you are meeting with the Member and what action you would like him/her to take. Try to get a commitment during the course of the meeting.
- Highlight the ways that the issue impacts the state or Congressional district, if possible.
- Be a good listener. Allow the Member or his/her aide to respond to the information you present on an issue. Respond to questions and arguments against your position as best you can. If you do not know the answer to a question, simply tell the Member that you don't know the answer but will find out and get back to him/her.
- Thank the Member at the end of the meeting even if he/she does not agree with your position.
After the Meeting
- Write up notes immediately after you leave the meeting while the information you obtained is still fresh. If more than one League member participated in the meeting, schedule time after the meeting to compare notes.
- Send a thank you to every person with whom you met.
- Brief other League members about your meeting through your newsletter or next Action Committee meeting.
- Send a brief report about your meeting to the LWVUS Grassroots Lobbying Coordinator. Be sure to include when you met, the people you met with, any commitments you obtained, and the necessary follow up required. The information you receive from meeting with your member of Congress is important to the LWVUS Lobbying Department as they plan lobbying strategies on legislative priorities.