Lobbying Congress Tips
Rooting our work in grassroots organizing and building strategic grassroots advocacy all starts with you! Whether you’re in your congressional district at home or making a visit to Washington, DC, congressional staff are there to meet with you and hear your asks, and with persistence, you’ll reach your member of Congress. Start by assembling a a group of constituents, ideally from different groups that you’ve built connections with from basebuilding and coalition building. Check out our Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit to take those first steps, then once you’re ready to lobby, check out our tips below.
Scheduling your Meeting
Setting a Meeting with Congressional Staff
The first few meetings with your members of Congress will likely be with congressional staff rather than lawmakers themselves. Because congressional staff are such an essential part of making legislative decisions and controlling access to lawmakers, it is essential to build relationships with legislative aides.
Look up the contact info for the right staff member on the “staff” tab of their legislator page, which you can reach by clicking your member of Congress’s name in the Congress Directory. If you’re meeting in-district, write to the district director, and if you’re meeting in Washington, DC, write to the legislative assistant(s) or the legislative director.
If you have trouble scheduling a meeting, check out this comprehensive guide from FCNL and contact USCPR. Afterwards, keep building the relationship with the staff member by sending informal updates from your group, formal asks, and inviting them to educational events put on by your organizers, USCPR, or our partners.
Getting a Meeting with your Member of Congress
Persistence pays off as you try to meet with your member of Congress. Once you’ve built a relationship with staff and established your group or coalition’s organizing power in-district, you should get your first “yes” for meeting time with your member of Congress. For other ways to reach your member of Congress, check out the Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit.
Rather than contacting legislative staff, you should request a meeting with a member of Congress by emailing the scheduler. Look up their contact info on the “staff” tab of their legislator page, which you can reach by clicking your member of Congress’s name in the Congress Directory.
Be sure to check the congressional calendar as you consider your scheduling request. In general, members of Congress are on Capitol Hill when Congress is in session and in their districts when Congress is not in session. In your average week in session, members of Congress are in district Friday afternoon to Monday morning and on Capitol Hill Monday evening to Thursday night.
If you would like assistance setting up or preparing for your meeting, please feel free to contact us.
Tips for Your Meetings with Members of Congress or Their Staff
Things To Do Before Your Meetings
1. Meet with everyone who is participating in the meeting. Pick a lead spokesperson. Rehearse your talking points and messages. Have someone role play the member of Congress or staff person and ask difficult questions.
2. Make sure that you have enough copies of all materials to be left with members of Congress or their staff, including information on your local group, USCPR, copies of relevant legislation, talking points, reports, etc. You can find resources in our Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit.
3. Dress for success. Wear business clothes. You and your message will be taken more seriously by your member of Congress if you are dressed professionally.
Things To Do At Your Meeting
1. Be on time.
2. Have the lead spokesperson briefly introduce him/herself, your local activist organization, and USCPR. Then have the other participants in the meeting introduce themselves.
3. State accurately how many people you represent.
4. Make your “ask” up front. This is the most important part of the meeting and the reason why you came. You are asking the Member of Congress to do something for you. Don’t be bashful about asking. They are expecting an ask. An ask is something specific, such as “We would like you to sign on to the Dear Colleague Letter condemning Israel’s human rights violations.”
5. After making your “asks” up front, focus on broader concerns and educational initiatives about the Palestine/Israel, time permitting.
6. Be disciplined—don’t contradict or argue with each other. If you do so, your group will look highly unprofessional and will not be taken seriously.
7. Be respectful, courteous, and thankful. This is not the proper time to badger members of Congress for previous votes, statements, etc.
8. Be calm—don’t be intimidated. People wielding power can be scary sometimes. Odds are that you know much more about the issue than does the member of Congress or his/her staff person. Keep this in mind when making your points.
9. Address members of Congress correctly by calling them “Senator” or “Representative,” unless otherwise directed by the member of Congress.
10. Take notes.
11. Get the staffers contact information and be sure to follow up immediately with resources.
Things To Do After Your Meetings
1. Send an evaluation of your meeting to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and our advocacy staff will be in touch. This will help us in knowing how we can best follow-up on these issues with this member of Congress.
2. Send a thank you note to the people with whom you met. This is very important in developing relationships with the staff and lawmakers.
3. Provide any follow-up information requested.
4. Establish an ongoing relationship with your members of Congress and their staff by emailing or phoning them when there is relevant legislation pending. Learn more about follow-up and moving your member of Congress to support Palestinian rights with long-term advocacy in our Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit.
If you are meeting with your member of Congress or their staff, and would like help preparing for the meeting, please contact us and our advocacy staff will follow up.