Setting up in-person meetings with Congressional offices:
Call the district office to schedule an in-person meeting when Members are in the district
Explain what issue you’re hoping to discuss
If you have any constituents joining your meeting, identify them by name and address
Consider setting up a meeting for a coalition of nonprofits to increase your chances of getting a high-level meeting
If you’re in DC, you can also schedule a meeting with the Member or their DC issue-based staff
It’s just as important to build a relationship with the staff as it is with Members of Congress—Congressional staffers often have more in-depth knowledge on the issues, and they directly influence policy by making recommendations to the Member
Show up to a town hall or local event hosted by your Member of Congress
Invite your Member to attend an event, volunteer, or observe programming at your nonprofit
MCN hosts a Coffee with Congress series—sign up to attend and ask your questions!
Steps to an effective meeting with federal policymakers:
Introduce yourself, your nonprofit, and thank the legislator for taking the time to meet with you. Share a little bit about your mission and the people you serve.
State your purpose for meeting. Be clear about what legislation you are supporting or opposing. Let the legislator know your position and why you’re asking them to vote for that position.
Listen. Give them a chance to talk about their perspective on the issue. One go-to question is “What are your priorities for the upcoming session/budget/legislation?”
Never make up answers or giving misleading information. Just say, “I’ll get back to you on that.” This provides a great reason for you to follow up with the office and continue your engagement!
Offer to be a resource in your nonprofit’s area of expertise. Remember, nonprofits have a lot to offer legislators: their expertise, connections with constituents and potential voters, and community trust and credibility.
Ask them directly for their vote. Try to get a commitment.
Thank them for their time and say you’ll keep in touch. This would also be a good time to ask if the legislator has ever been to your nonprofit or volunteered with you before—if not, invite them to come down anytime.
Remember, an in-person interaction with your Member of Congress and their Congressional staff is just a step on the journey to building a long-lasting relationship with your federal policymakers. Be professional and patient, but also persistent.