Scheduling a meeting with your Member of Congress
- Contact your Members of Congress to schedule your meetings today
- When they are home on recess is a good time to meet with them directly.
- DO NOT WAIT until they are home to meet with them. All members of Congress have health staffers who can meet with you now. You can then meet with the Members themselves when they are home in district.
- Schedules are likely to be very busy, so call as soon as possible to set up a meeting!
- You can find your Members local phone numbers through their websites
- Be as flexible as possible with day/time, as getting an appointment can be difficult.
- Plan to bring a group of advocates. Senators are statewide, so you can bring any resident of the state to a meeting with a Senator or Senator’s staff. Representatives cover a particular district.
Here is a sample script for setting up your visit:
Hello, my name is ________. I am a constituent of Senator/Representative ______ and I am (choose one: a person living with HIV/with organization ______/an advocate for people living with HIV). There are XXX people living with HIV in the state of [name of state]. I have a group of constituents who would like to meet with Senator/Representative _____ to discuss our concerns about __________ as soon as possible. Can we find a time early next week?
Note: They may be able to transfer you to the appropriate staff to schedule you immediately, or they may need to call you back. If you leave a phone number, have them repeat it back to you.
If they are able to schedule the meeting: Thank you so much. Who will we be meeting with? (get name and title). We look forward to meeting with you on [day] at [time].
Preparing for the Meeting:
Note: Most meetings are only about 15 minutes long, whether you are meeting with the Member or their staff. This means your group has to be organized and prepared to get your points across.
- Once you have an appointment set, get your group together and plan to show up for it! Make sure to note the appointment on your calendar and set a reminder for yourself. The day of the appointment, make sure you arrive at least 20 minutes early so you have ample time to find parking and the meeting location. If you are late, you will most likely lose your appointment time, and they may not want to reschedule you.
- Plan what you are going to talk about for the purposes of setting up the meeting.
- Schedule a preparation meeting or phone call for your group to go over the talking points and who will share personal stories about how the proposed policy or existing legislation affects them. If you need a conference call line to use for preparation, please contact us to let us know what time and date you will need it and we will set one up for your group.
- Jot down any questions you have for the Member of Congress. By the end of your meeting, you definitely want to ask them clearly: Can we count on you to oppose the XXXX/support the XXXXX?
- Sign up and participate in peer-to-peer calling (from Indivisible):
- Click here to sign up to make phone calls from Indivisible’s peer-to-peer dialing tool. You’ll get an email confirmation with a login, password, and URL to sign into the system. Once signed in, you can start making calls immediately — and there will be a script to make it as easy as possible!
- Next, you’ll call a voter in a key state with a swing Republican Senator. These folks are your friends—they attended the Women’s March, they’re standing up to #DefendDACA, and/or fight for progressive causes.
- You explain how they have power now. You’ll remind them why the continued fight against TrumpCare is so important—and why they have particular power in this moment.
- You ask them to use their power. You’ll ask them to call their senator in opposition to the bill, and to share their own reasons for opposing it.
- The tool connects them to their Senator’s office. The call tool will allow you to automatically patch them through to the Senators’ district
Do your research:
- Know your Member’s record before you go. Did they vote for or against the president’s cabinet appointments? Which ones? Did they vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Also, check which committees they sit on. Committee information is available on their website.
- Familiarize yourself with any public statements they have made on issues relevant to your meeting.
- Make sure to either thank them for votes you agree with, or question them about why they cast votes that you disagree with.
- Understand what your Member is (and is not) responsible for. Since you will have only a few minutes, stay focused.
- Decide what each member of the group attending will cover.
- Practice your talking points.
At the meeting:
- Bring your own talking points jotted down on a piece of paper so you don’t miss anything.
- TIP: Share personal anecdotes to illustrate why the policies you are advocating for or against are so important to you. While it’s always good to know facts and statistics, lawmakers already have access to plenty of those. What they are interested in hearing about from you is how the issue affects their constituents personally. For example, when talking about health care, your personal story about not being able to get coverage before the Affordable Care Act, and thus not having access to the life-saving medications you needed, will be more powerful than simply citing a statistic that up to 30 million people could lose coverage if the ACA is repealed. They already know that. You don’t need to disclose more than you are comfortable sharing, but the more personal the story, the more powerful it is- whether you are speaking with the Member of Congress or their staff. Keep your story short and to the point.
- If you are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, don’t make something up! Let them know you will look into it and get back to them. That provides a perfect opportunity to follow up with an email address
- Bring fact sheets or other resources about your issue to leave with the Member or their staff.
- Write down their response and/or any commitments they make. You can use that to hold them accountable later if they do something differently from what they say.
- In closing: Have a clear ask. Can we count on you to oppose the _______/ support the ________?
- Get the business card with email address of the Member and their staff member you should send follow-up questions or materials to. Often the Member will have a staff person who works with specific issues, so make sure you are sending any follow-up materials to the right person.
After Your Meeting:
- Send a follow-up email thanking the Member and/or their staff for their time and attention. Reiterate the issue(s) you spoke about and your ask.
- If you have good (short) resources to share on the issue, especially if you were not able to bring them with you to the meeting, link or attach them to the email.
- Continue to call the Members office (in D.C. and locally) to advocate for your issue(s). If the Member has expressed support for your issue, hold them to that, especially when it’s close to time for a vote in Congress. If the Member expresses opposition to your issue, or says they are undecided, try to call every single day and continue to reiterate your position and make your ask.