LegNet June 2009
Every year, Congress recesses for the month of August and representatives return to their home districts. Representatives and Senators use much of this time to meet with their constituents, learning about the issues that matter to the people they are representing. During this recess, when representatives are at home and eager to hear from you, plan to spend some time advocating for GFWC's Public Policy Priority Issues.
Writing and calling your representatives throughout the year is an important part of the lobbying process and should not be undervalued, but having the opportunity to present your position directly to your representative can have a tremendous impact on the strength of your cause. By meeting face to face, you can let your legislator know that you are truly passionate about an issue and more fully articulate your position. This is the most effective way to lobby for your position because it puts a human face on the issue and allows your representative to see the strength of your conviction.
When planning to meet with your legislator, make sure to be well prepared and knowledgeable about the facts of the issues and your own position. You should not get into arguments with your representative regardless of how much you disagree with their policy position. Rather, present your case clearly and succinctly, letting your representative know what the legislation will do and what the specific impact would be on you and your community. Your argument will be more impressive if you stick to presenting the facts rather than descending into ad hominem attacks.
Your representatives are elected to protect and advance the interests of their constituents. As such, clubwoman constituents must reach out to be heard!
You can schedule a meeting with your Member of Congress or their staff in their district office. Or invite your Member of Congress to an event that your GFWC club is planning or to tour your clubhouse and learn more about your volunteer work. There are three steps to schedule a meeting or event with your Member of Congress.
- Contact the Scheduler. Members of Congress have staff dedicated to managing their schedules, both while they are in Washington and at home in their district. To schedule a meeting or event, contact their district office and ask to speak with the Scheduler who is responsible for their schedule while they are in the district. (This person may be in the district office or a Scheduler in their DC office staff may handle all events.) To get information on how to contact their district offices, go to www.Senate.gov or www.House.gov and find your representative's personal website. Or, you can contact their DC office through the Capitol switchboard at 202/224-3121.
- E-mail or fax a scheduling request letter. Most Congressional offices will request a short letter addressed to the Scheduler that states the purpose of the meeting, the proposed dates and times, and the individuals who want to attend. If you are inviting the Member to an event or to tour a site, give details about the invitation and explain that you would be honored to have the Member attend or visit. Mention that it would be a great press opportunity for your Member. Make sure to include your contact information so that the Scheduler can get back to you.
- Follow-up and confirm the meeting details. After you send your letter, make a phone call to the Scheduler to followup. They will help arrange the details and ensure that your Member of Congress has all the information that they need to prepare. It may take several phone calls before you hear a response and sometimes they will not be able to give an answer immediately. Because they receive a high volume of faxes, they will often they ask you to resend your scheduling request letter. Be patient and offer to call again closer to the event or desired meeting date.