Tips for visiting Capitol Hill

Meeting with congressional staff or a member of Congress can be an extremely effective way to convey your message. If you are able to meet with a member of Congress or a congressional staffer, it is important to know what to expect when you visit. This will help you to feel more at ease during the meeting and be more prepared in order to have the best outcome possible.

Pocket Guide to Advocacy on Capitol Hill: Practical Tips for the Grassroots Advocate How to Effectively Influence Congress

First, make sure that you plan your visit carefully. Take the time to determine ahead of time which committee staff or Member of Congress you should meet with in order to achieve your goal. In addition, make an appointment. This is done by contacting the Scheduler in the Member’s office, explaining your purpose and who you represent if you are representing a firm or association. This makes it easier for the congressional staff to arrange your meeting when they know ahead of time what it is that you wish to discuss. Remember that it is often not possible to obtain a meeting at the last moment.

Be prompt and patient. Keep in mind that it is not unusual for Representatives and Senators and their staffers to run somewhat late or to have meetings interrupted. You must be flexible.

Bring a one-pager and information to the meeting that will support your position and that you can leave behind. It is best to us personal examples that demonstrate the benefits or impact associated with a particular issue.

You also want to demonstrate an association between your request and the interests of the Member’s constituency. Members of Congress want to represent the best interests of their state or district, and they usually want to be reelected. Try to be clear about how you or the group you represent can be of assistance to them. If it is appropriate to do so, ask for a commitment.

Make sure you are prepared to answer questions and provide any additional information if the Member or staffer should ask questions or express further interest. It is also appropriate to follow up the meeting with a thank you letter that will outline the different points that were covered during your meeting. And don’t forget to send any additional materials and information requested.

If you are visiting Capitol Hill as part of an organization’s National Advocacy Day, encourage your association leaders to provide our Pocket Guide to Advocacy on Capitol Hill to you and your colleagues.

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