Meeting with your members of congress is one of the most effective ways that you can influence the legislative process. Members are more likely to support positions that their constituents feel strongly about, and there is no better way to display your passion for an issue than by taking the time to have a face-to-face meeting. This is especially important on issues where the opposition is lobbying strongly against legislation you support, or on issues that are relatively new, complex, and sometimes controversial where there is an opportunity to educate policy makers. Meeting with your legislators can be easy and fun. You can meet one-on-one or you can plan a meeting with other activists in your area.
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Setting up a meeting
- Plan, Plan, Plan. If you are willing to invest the time to get a face-to-face meeting with your legislator, be willing to think through what you hope to accomplish from the meeting and how best to go about reaching your goal. Consider what issue you most want to focus on and what your main message on this issue is. What is your legislator's position on that issue and what do you want your legislator to do after the meeting? It is also important to consider whether having other people join you in the meeting would help you to convey your main message. Bring any relevant materials regarding your topic to leave behind—the UCS website has many useful documents you can print out and bring with you.
- Find a date and location. If you are meeting with a federal legislator, you will need to find out when your legislator is back in the district. Check their website for the most current information about when they are on recess. If you plan to meet with a state or local legislator, be sure to check their website for details about where the office is.
- Request the meeting. Your request for a meeting should be initiated by mailing or faxing a letter to the legislator’s scheduler. Call the local office and ask for the names of the legislator's scheduler and/or environmental assistant. Next, fax or mail a letter requesting a meeting, putting it to the attention of the scheduler. You should indicate how flexible you are with the time of the meeting, as this will increase your chances of getting a meeting during busier days. Below we have provided a sample letter for you to use.
- Follow-up by phone. Within 24 hours of sending the fax or when you think the letter will have arrived, call the scheduler and confirm his or her receipt of the note. If you have not heard back in three to four days, call the scheduler again and ask if a meeting has been arranged.
Additional tips and resources
- Consider meeting with an aide. If the legislator is unavailable to meet, you may end up with a meeting with the aide. While you should always ask for a meeting with the legislator, a meeting with the lead aide on your issue can be productive. The aide is the office "expert" on the issue and thus has influence with the legislator. If you are persistent and effective, you may be able to parlay a first meeting with an aide into a long-term relationship with that office and/or a meeting directly with the legislator.
- Seek additional guidance. If you would like help with strategies for specific members of Congress, or would like information on materials to leave with the legislator, contact us. We're happy to help you plan and strategize your meeting.
- Have Reasonable Expectations. Don’t expect your legislator to change his/her position after your 20-minute meeting. You should view your meeting as one critical step among many to engage your legislator on the issue.
- Now that you've got the meeting set, what's next? Review UCS's tips to holding an effective meeting.
Sample Meeting Request Letter
[Legislator title and name]
ATTN: Scheduler's Name, fax number
Dear [Title Last Name]:
I am writing to request a meeting with you and your aides on the subject of [enter topic here.] [If appropriate, briefly mention any credentials that would convince the scheduler to make you a priority.]
[Discuss the reasons for your current request for a meeting—e.g., developments in a piece of legislation you're concerned about. For example:] I wish to request a few minutes of your time to discuss the recently introduced bill, [bill name].
I will be available to meet with you anytime on the [date(s)] and would be delighted to talk with you then about [the bill]. I would like to bring with me [list colleagues, or other are activists if applicable], also from [your state/district]].
I can be reached at the phone number (s) below, and look forward to hearing from you soon.
Institution (if appropriate)