Lobbying Congress Tips
Meetings with congressional offices can take place either in Washington DC or locally (known as in-district meetings).
To request a meeting with your Members of Congress, the best place to start is their website. Calling the Washington DC office is often the fastest option, but most congressional offices also have a link to schedule a meeting in the ‘Constituent Services’ or ‘Contact Us’ tab on their website.
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 making legislative decisions and controlling access to lawmakers, it is essential to build relationships with legislative aides.
If you are meeting with your Members of Congress in Washington DC, it is best to request a meeting with the Legislative Director of Foreign Policy Legislative Aide.
If you are setting up a meeting in-district, it is best to request a meeting with the Chief of Staff, or another staff member who can speak to the issues and relate your concerns to the office in DC. When meeting in-district, the staff member should provide you with the Legislative Director or Foreign Policy Legislative Aide’s contact information so you can follow-up directly.
Tips for Your Meetings with Members of Congress
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, the US Campaign, copies of relevant legislation, talking points, reports, etc.
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.
1. Be on time.
2. Have the lead spokesperson briefly introduce him/herself, your local activist organization, and the US Campaign. 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 Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 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.
13. Get the staffers contact information
1. Send an evaluation of your meeting to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 phoning and faxing them when there is pending, relevant legislation. Stay connected to what is happening on Capitol Hill via the US Campaign and please do legislative alerts.
If you are meeting with your Member of Congress or his/her staff, and would like help preparing for the meeting, please feel free to contact:
Government Affairs Associate