How to Set up a Meeting with Your Member of Congress
Engaging face-to-face with government officials and their staff is the single most powerful advocacy strategy you can pursue. Here we outline the steps for a successful meeting with Members of Congress.
Step 1: Select Members for a Meeting
Members of Congress find it most helpful to hear from their direct constituents— the people who live in the districts they represent.
- You can find your Representative based on your zip code.
- You can find your U.S. Senators based on your state.
However, if you represent people who live in a Member’s district—for instance, if you advocate for people’s access to health care or provide them direct services—you can meet with the Member to provide helpful information on behalf of the people you represent.
Step 2: Request a Meeting
To set up a meeting with a Member of Congress, contact the Member’s office. The following websites provide information about how to contact Members’ offices in Washington, D.C. and in their home state districts.
When you contact a Member’s office, be sure to indicate that you are a constituent if you live in an area that the member represents. Also mention the topic you want to discuss.
If your Senator(s) or Representative is unavailable, request a meeting with a member of their staff. Staffers communicate regularly with their Members and often have a deeper understanding of the specific issues under consideration in Congress, so meeting with staff is worthwhile.
Town Halls: In addition to meeting with Members and their staff, you can check your Members’ websites to see if they have any upcoming town halls or office hours you can attend. These events provide open opportunities for constituents to ask questions of and provide feedback to Members.
Step 3: Prepare For the Meeting
Before the meeting, think about the key issues you want to raise with your Members. Are there any resources or factsheets you need to review to bring yourself up to speed on key issues? Are there data points you want to discuss to back up your arguments? Compile your facts ahead of time so you have the information you need fresh in your mind for the meeting.
It is wise to prepare 3-5 key points you want to make so you are ready with clear and articulate statements when your meeting begins. Also ensure you have any materials on hand if you want to leave behind factsheets or other resources with your members.
Step 4: Meet with your Member and/or Staff
When meeting with your Senators, Representative, or their staff, follow these tips:
- Tell your personal story: Sharing why you or the people you represent are personally affected by an issue is a powerful way to advocate and educate members. Stories provide emotional resonance and breathe life into issues in ways that other tactics cannot. They also help demystify complex topics by illustrating how health care problems affect real people. Members want to hear from constituents about how Congress is impacting their lives.
- Share key points about the issue: When you meet with your member, share 3-5 top points about the issue. These points should reflect your greatest concerns and provide information that will resonate with your Member based on his or her priorities and goals. Including data to back up your arguments, especially state-specific or local data, will help make your points more compelling. Reports and factsheets from organizations like Families USA can help you identify key points and data about health care issues for your meeting.
- Keep the conversation state- or district-specific: Members want to know how the state or district they represent will specifically be affected by issues. Share any information you have on how health care issues will impact specific population groups, health care industries, and businesses in your state or community, as well as how the state or local economy will be impacted.
Step 5: Close the Meeting with a Key “Ask”
An effective meeting with a Member of Congress provides the Member with a clear request. For example, the request may be to vote “yes” or “no” on a piece of legislation or to introduce legislation on a specific topic. Or, the request may seek the Member’s assistance in other ways, such as urging federal agencies to take certain actions within their power.
After you present your concerns during the meeting, make a clear “ask” of your Member of Congress. Your ask should be clear and specific in articulating the action you would like your Member to take to address the issues you have raised. Offer any assistance you can provide your member as he or she works to implement your request. Organizations like Families USA can provide information on what key “asks” are for addressing the health care issues you care about if you need help crafting your request.
Step 6: Follow-up after the Meeting
Send an email after the meeting to thank the Member and/or staff for meeting with you. If you discussed resources or information during the meeting that you indicated you would send, do so as soon as possible after the meeting.
Over the coming weeks, you can follow-up regarding progress on the requests you made of the Member and/or staff, staying mindful that members are very busy and field many requests. When you follow up provide any information that you have that may be helpful to addressing your request, and offer the Member and staff your assistance gathering information.
General Tips for Meeting with Members of Congress
- There’s no reason to be nervous when meeting with Members of Congress. They are very interested in hearing directly from their constituents and the people who represent their constituents. You do not have to worry about sounding perfect when you speak. Speak naturally and remember that you are an expert on the problems and needs that you and the people you represent experience.
- Always be considerate of your Member’s time constraints and their staff’s time. Arrive on time for your meeting. If Members or staff indicate that they only have a set amount of time for a meeting, ensure you end within that timeframe.
- When speaking, be courteous and concise.