The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition
Visiting Your Members of Congress at Their Local Offices
Preparing for the Visit
- Make an appointment to visit your member of Congress when s/he is home on weekends or during congressional recesses.
- Make the appointment 2-3 weeks in advance. Their calendars fill up quickly, so arrange the meeting as early as possible - even before the recess begins!
- Members of Congress may be travelling to various districts while home, so be sure to find out their availability at your local district office. To find your member's local district office, please visit the Senate web site or the House of Representatives web site.
- Be persistent - you may need to make more than one call to arrange the meeting.
- You may need to meet with a staff person if the member is unavailable.
- Make clear which issue(s) you want to discuss. This is also important to ensure you meet with the appropriate staff person who works on the issue.
- Get a sense of timing as to how long the meeting will last. This will help you prepare what points you want to convey in the time you have with the member or their staff.
- Gather information. Learn about your legislators' records and issues of interest. Become familiar with the opposition's views and arguments on the issues to help you answer questions that may arise.
- Prepare materials to leave with the legislator or staff such as copies of relevant fact sheets or a memo summarizing your main concerns.
- Work in coalition to underscore the broad appeal of your position. Agree on specific talking points and lobbying goals and designate a lead spokesperson for the meeting.
- Confirm the appointment the morning of or day before the meeting. Arrive on time.
- Business attire is not necessary but feeling and looking confident is important.
During the Visit
- Introduce yourself and start on a positive note. If s/he recently voted in support of a priority issue, thank her/him.
- Clearly state the position of your organization or the coalition you are representing.
- Explain your position with facts, but also use personal stories when possible. Let the legislator understand the personal ramifications or benefits resulting from their actions.
- If you don't understand something, ask for an explanation.
- Legislators and staff are usually pressed for time. It is important to focus on your main points and articulate your position clearly and concisely.
- Be considerate of their time. If you were allotted 20 minutes, make sure you keep track of your time and articulate your position without running over.
- Ask the legislator or staff to clarify what their position is on the issue.
- Ask the legislator to take specific actions such as sponsoring a bill, voting for or against a pending measure, or meeting with your branch or your state board.
- If you don't know the answer to a question, say so, but offer to get an answer.
- Always make a few extra copies of information and leave materials that you bring with the member of congress and/or their staff members. Also be sure to provide your contact information and if possible, get contact information from the staffer as well.
- Don't forget to thank the legislator and staff before you leave.
After the Visit
- Write or call legislators and staff after the visit to thank them for their time. Remind them of anything they may have agreed to do and send any additional information.
- Share the results of your meetings with the coalition. Share insights you have gained about legislators concerns and ask others to lobby.
- Find out when the legislators will be in your home district hosting town hall meetings or forums and organize a group to attend.
- Maintain communication with legislators and their staff through letters, calls, and visits. Developing relationships with your legislators and their staff can be helpful for future visits.