Turnover on Capitol Hill can be difficult to navigate, especially following redistricting. The 118th Congress includes seven new senators and more than 70 new representatives.
The early days of a new congressional session offer opportunities for constituent advocates to get to know new members and their staff, and to introduce them to the work of FCNL and our priorities. Meeting with new members and their staff early, after they get settled, is crucial to building lasting relationships.
It can be especially impactful to contact or drop-by local district offices, because these staff members are usually some of the closest to the lawmakers. They play a key role in encouraging their offices to act on certain issues and can advise legislators about specific constituents and groups who want to meet.
Below, you’ll find resources to make this first step in the relationship a little bit easier. We’ve included a sample meeting request, a suggested timeline, and answers to frequently asked questions about meeting with your new lawmakers.
How Do I Arrange a Meeting?
Remember: New congressional offices might not be fully staffed for a while. Be persistent, but be patient, too.
1. Call your legislator’s district office
- Visit your lawmaker’s website and identify which district office you wish to visit. Then give them a call! You can say:
“Hi, my name is _____, and I’m with a group of constituents looking to schedule a meeting with Representative/Senator ______ during the upcoming recess. Can you tell me what the best way to go about scheduling a meeting is?
2. Submit your 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 can find who your member’s scheduler is by visiting this page.
Suggested Action Timeline
January: Do Your Homework
Read about your new member’s background and issue priorities. Sources for this include your member’s website, local news interviews, social media, and newsletter. Try to answer the following questions:
- What issues are you not seeing or hearing that you care about?
- Did your member hold local office? What was their track record?
- Who did your member appear to listen to in the community?
February: Schedule a Meeting
When engaging with your new member or their staff, having an education mindset can help to build relationships and trust. Members and their staff are learning A LOT of issues, fast. How can you and your community help educate the new office? What kind of expertise or experiences can you share to educate them on our legislative priorities?
A great time to meet with your representative is during a congressional recess. The 2023 February Recess runs from Friday, Feb. 10 to Friday, Feb. 24. You can use the instructions in the previous section to schedule a meeting. You can also give them an introduction to FCNL and our policy priorities, which can be found here.
For your first meeting, we recommend learning what their policy priorities are and what they want to accomplish.
After your meeting, let us know how your visit went at this link.
March: Follow-Up on Your First Meeting
Follow-up on your first meeting in February by sending an email to thank the staffer or representative for their time.
April: Continue Your Advocacy
If you feel called, write a letter-to-the-editor recapping the first few months of your representative’s term to offer reflections and advice. You should share your letter, published or not, with the office.
Depending on the conversation in your first meeting, ask for a second with the District Director or a policy staffer to continue to build your relationship with the office.
If you have questions about additional advocacy opportunities, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
When does my new member of Congress start working?
New members don’t get the keys to their office until they are sworn in. From November to that January start date, new members are in Washington, D.C. for orientation, learning the ropes, and beginning to hire some key staff.
When will I be able to look up staff who work for my new member of Congress based on the issues they work on?
FCNL will be updating our Staff Lookup Tool as quickly as we are able. But it is important to remember that most offices aren’t fully staffed until about March. If you are looking to contact a staff person who works on a particular issue, we suggest calling the office to ask for the name of the best person to reach out to. You can reach your new member’s office by dialing the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
When do we know the committee assignments of our new members of Congress?
Committee assignments are typically finalized in late January, though some assignments might happen sooner.
If you have questions about the responsibilities of the committees your new member is on, please email us at email@example.com.
When will my member of Congress have their district office set up?
Some members of Congress get district offices set up quickly. In non-pandemic times, district and state offices were mostly finalized by March. Once the district office is set-up, we recommend a drop-by visit before scheduling a lobby visit to help introduce the office to FCNL.
Why hasn’t my member of Congress responded to my email message that I sent through their website or FCNL’s advocacy center?
New members of Congress get a lot of correspondence, and might not be fully staffed to until weeks after they are sworn in. We encourage proactive outreach to your member of Congress, but don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to hear back. And remember to always be polite.
Should I take the first meeting I can get, or wait until the staffer is hired who handles the issue I want to discuss?
According to the Congressional Management Foundation, 66% of new member offices recommended waiting to request meetings with new members until staff are hired that focus on the issue your group would like to discuss. There’s no harm in requesting early, especially if you can get a meeting with your new member of Congress themselves but know that sometimes it is worth the wait!
I have having trouble finding enough information on my new member. Is there an FCNL resource to help me?
If you would like assistance in learning about your new member, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.