Scheduling an appointment to meet and discuss issues of importance is a wonderful opportunity to begin building a relationship with Congress and key staff, and to advocate for your issues. Politicians are always happy to meet with constituents as getting re-elected is often dependent on having voters know them and their views on the issues.
It is important to contact the offices as early as possible to set up your meeting, whether you’re meeting in the District or Washington D.C offices. It is important to note that Congress and staff have limited time in their busy schedules for one on one meetings.
Below are some tips to help you schedule your meetings with House and Senate leaders.
1. Find contact information for the scheduler – if one is not listed, call the office to request his/her name and email.
2. Send an email to the scheduler letting them know that you are a constituent and would like to make an appointment on DATE and let them know that you are available anytime. This provides better outcomes for a meeting to be scheduled.
It is not uncommon to have your meeting scheduled with a key member of the congressional staff. In this case it may be the person that handles health care or Veterans Affairs issues for the Member. This is always a terrific way to gain a contact and a champion in the congressional office so should be viewed as a positive occurrence. These are very knowledgeable staff members that will get the information to
their representative. Remember that staff has the ear of the Member and can get your issue out
front if you state your case clearly and with factual data.
3. Within the email, make sure that you tell them you will be in DC/District advocating for NOVA and want to discuss VA issues important to the organization. You may also want to provide some specifics on the issues you wish to discuss.
4. A day or two after you send the email, call the office and ask to speak to the scheduler to confirm that the request was received. If you have not heard back from the office within a week, call them again and see if you can get your meeting scheduled – be prepared to leave a detailed message as you may be placed into voicemail.
5. Lastly, be persistent and confirm the date/time and location of your appointment at least two
weeks before your arrival.
Know Before You Go
Do Your Research
Know where the legislator stands on the issues important to you. Know what committees’ he or she sits on and how they voted on those issues. You can find information on various bills and the legislator’s positions on their website. Visit the House or Senate websites and click on your legislator. Their individual congressional website is public and contains a lot of useful information about their interests, committees, District and Washington D.C. locations.
For information on specific bills and votes, the Library of Congress has a free research site
What to Bring
Sometimes it’s okay to go by yourself or with a small group but keep the number manageable. Make sure you have a “story to tell,” as examples really bring home the message.
Plan Your Discussion
Have some talking points. If there is a small group, appoint a spokesperson and/or have each person contribute, but plan this ahead of time. One person in the group should make sure that each issue is covered and that the specific requests you have are asked before the meeting ends.
Be prompt and arrive on time. The importance you place on the issues is reflected in your appearance and demeanor. Introduce each person with a few comments regarding their interest in the issue, which group you represent, where each visitor lives. Thank the individual for their time. Don’t assume they know what you are talking about. Provide a one-page document for reference (NOVA Legislative Priority Goals). End the visit on a positive note even if the member and/or the legislative aides are not supportive.
After the Visit
Make sure you send a follow-up email to thank them and to encourage them to contact you should they have questions or need an expert when reviewing nursing issues in the future. We'd like to hear about your visit. Let us know how it went by completing a brief NOVA Congressional Meeting Survey.
You have just taken part in Democracy at its best and gained a contact in your Congressional office.
Should you need assistance at any time during the process of reaching out to your Member of Congress, please contact Teresa Morris, Director Advocacy and Government Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org.