|Image: A calendar grid with a giant question mark on it.|
Even among seasoned activists, I don't meet a lot of folks who schedule their own lobby meetings. Many advocacy groups rely on staff for that work, but really anyone can request a meeting! Setting up a lobby meeting is a harder advocacy action than some of the other things we do, but it’s not as impossible as most people assume. This blog will give you clear steps to submit your meeting request and some advice for getting your meeting scheduled.
NOTE: I wrote this advice from the perspective of meeting with a U.S. representative or senator. The same basic process works for state officials, but I notice more variability with procedures at the state level. It might be due to state members having fewer constituents and shorter sessions. (Missouri legislators meet only five months out of the year!)
Scheduling a meeting with a member of Congress takes a lot of persistence. If possible, submit your meeting request a whole month before you want to meet, so you have plenty of time to work through these steps. That way you can get on their calendar before they're totally booked up!
How to submit a meeting request
STEP #1: Submit a meeting request by using the website form for the congressional office. If you don’t hear back from them in a week, move to Step #2.
STEP #2: Call the office of your member of Congress. Ask the admin for the name and email address of the “scheduler” for the location where you want to meet (D.C. or local district office). Ask to speak to the scheduler directly with your request. If they are not available, send them an email directly.
Here’s a picture with a sample template you can follow for crafting your email. It should clearly and concisely provide information about who you are, when you want to meet, what your organization does, and why you want to meet. Don't forget to provide both your email and phone contact information!
|Image: Sample template for requesting a congressional meeting via email.|
Graphic from the book "From Changing Diapers to Changing the World"
STEP #3: Follow up every couple of days with polite emails and phone calls to the scheduler if you don’t hear back in a few days.
Tips to improve your chances of getting a meeting
The following tips can help get your request noticed out of all the other people clamoring for attention. Schedulers are people, too. If you make things easy for them, they'll do their best to make things easy for you.
• Be persistent, but not belligerent.
• Offer as much flexibility as possible for times and location, including an online zoom meeting. Follow their rules respectfully. If they say you can only bring three people, stay within that limit.
|Image: ONE volunteers got a surprise meeting in DC with |
Rep. Cori Bush when she returned early from her prior meeting.
• Accept a meeting with an aide if the congressperson is not available. Aides are important members of the team who help the member make decisions on your issue. Plus, you never know when you might get a surprise meeting from the member walking in unexpectedly.
• Work with a respected nonpartisan organization aligned with your position. They can support you, and their excellent reputation can help legitimize your request.
|Image: RESULTS volunteers met with |
Rep. Ann Wagner during an August recess.
• If possible, request a time when you know your member will be in your local area, like August recess when members leave Washington D.C. to go home for almost an entire month. District meetings tend to be longer and more relaxed than D.C. meetings.
Resources to prepare for your meeting
I hope you're successful and move on to the happy problem of wondering what to do in that meeting. Don’t worry! My kiddo and co-author for my next book, Yara Changyit-Levin, has you covered with their blog: “How to Lobby a Member of Congress.” If it’s a Zoom meeting, you can look up a few pointers on my blog, “Advocacy Made Easy: Zoom Lobby Meetings.”