Setting up a meeting at your member of Congress’ local office can be a lengthy and complicated process, but don’t let this obstacle deter you from doing it! Making an in-person lobby visit is one of the most effective ways to communicate your concerns to your member of congress.
Listening to your concerns is part of your representative and senator’s jobs—so make your voice heard by following these simple steps:
1. Call your senator or representative’s district office
To find your nearest district office, visit fcnl.org/congress. Go to the “Staff Lookup” tab, in the upper right corner, and type in your zip code. This webpage will indicate where each district office is located, and what number you should call to contact them. Once you have identified which office you wish to visit, give them a call. Here is what to say:
“Hi, my name is______, and I’m with a group of constituents looking to schedule a meeting with Congressman/woman ________ during the upcoming recess. Can you tell me what the best way to go about scheduling a meeting is?”
2. Submit your visit request
There are two ways you will be asked to submit a visit request:
- Submitting an online form: Some offices enforce strict protocol when dealing with online request forms. Be sure to follow all instructions when submitting this form.
- Sending emails: If there is no online form to fill out, you should email the scheduler. You will find who your member’s scheduler is by visiting the “Staff Lookup” tab on our webpage, fcnl.org/congress.
Whether you are submitting a form, or sending an email, there is key information that you must include when contacting your member’s office. You should provide your full name, indicate that you live in the district, and give a brief description of the issue that you wish to discuss. If there is a specific bill that you would like to address, include the name or number of that piece of legislation.
If you will be accompanied by others, be sure to indicate who will be joining you. Let your member’s office know what roles you and your group play in your community. Are you coming with your faith group? Are you involved in other advocacy efforts at home? Talk about who you are, and where you are coming from. An effective group meeting usually consists of four to six people. If you have gathered a much larger group, consider only bringing a couple people on your visit. Later, you can host a larger forum where many more community members can attend. Events such as these are perfect opportunities to invite your member of congress or their staff so that you may engage in a larger, more accessible conversation.
3. Be patient, persistent, and polite
Once you have submitted your request, you will often hear back from your member’s office in one to seven days. If you haven’t heard back after one week, you may reach out again by phone or email. Keep your follow-up message brief: state that you sent a request and that you look forward to hearing back from them! Your persistence is a key part of this process. It usually takes seven to fifteen contacts with the office before the meeting is officially confirmed. Sometimes, the office will ask you to wait until a future date to request a visit. Abide by this request. Congressional schedules have tons of moving pieces, so your patience is incredibly important.
4. Confirm whether the visit is with the member or their staff
Once you hear back from the scheduler, they will offer you a meeting with the member of congress or their staffer. If they offer you an opportunity to meet with a staffer, take it! In-district staffers are some of the most important people in congressional offices. They are responsible for communicating constituent concerns to the member of congress, so it is important that you form a strong relationship with them. Your meeting will take place on a weekday.
If you will be discussing a complicated issue, or have already talked to district staff about this issue, you might consider having a staffer in the DC office join the meeting over the phone so that all your questions may be answered.
5. Confirm your meeting
Even after you schedule your meeting, it is important to stay in touch with the office. The week before your visit, send a confirmation email, and include a finalized list of all the people who will be joining the meeting.
Setting up an in-district lobby visit can be quite complicated—your patience and persistence are essential throughout this process. Should you have any questions, please reach out to Justin Hurdle, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We wish you the best of luck as you prepare to meet in person with your member of congress!
Want even more information? Watch the video below: