Tips For Meeting With Your Members Of Congress
Face-to-face meetings are the most effective way to influence legislators. By meeting with Members of Congress, you can educate them and gain their support for the Special Diabetes Programs. Reach out to your state’s two U.S. Senators and your area’s U.S. Representative. Make sure they know you are a constituent!
The first step is to get familiar with the issues. Take a moment to review the Awakening the Spirit®advocacy materials. Review the Call to Action Letter and Key Talking Points for Congressional Meetings fact sheets.Print and read the Stop Diabetes®: Fund the Special Diabetes Programs fact sheetto leave behind at the end of your Congressional office visit. Ask other members of your community to join you in the meetings. Create a plan to make sure your message gets out to as many Members of Congress as possible.
If you are unable to schedule a meeting, plan time for a drop-by visit, and leave the fact sheet with a note that includes your phone number, mailing address, and email address. The Sample Letter to Congressional Leaders provides some key points to includein your note.
Make an Appointment
Contact the appointment secretary/scheduler, if possible three to four weeks in advance. Find contact information for your Members’ offices in your state on their websites or by using the “Find Your Elected Officials” tool on www.diabetes.org.Or, call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected with your Member’s Capitol Hill office in Washington, D.C. The staff in the Member’s Washington office can provideyou with contact information for the in-state offices and schedulers.
Greeting and General Request
“Hello, my name is ________________. I am a diabetes advocate and constituent from [city/town] and from the [insert tribe]. I am calling to schedule a meeting with the Senator/ Representative [give specific date/time].”
Explain Your Reason for the Meeting
Share who will be coming and be clear about your purpose. It is easier for Congressional staff to arrange a meeting if they know what you wish to discuss and your relationship to the area or interests represented by the Member. “I’d like to request a meeting to discuss the Special Diabetes Programs, which include the Special Diabetes Program for Indians.”
Make a Direct Request
“Can you tell me when the Senator/Representative is available to meet? This is a very important issue for the Native American community.”
The scheduler may offer to get back to you once he or she has reviewed the Member’s schedule. If so, before closing the call, emphasize the importance of the issue and re-state your request for a face-to-face meeting with the Member. Be prepared to offer alternative dates. If the scheduler states that the Member is unavailable, emphasize: “This is a very important issue for Native Americans. We want to ensure that our concerns are communicated to the Senator/Representative. Can you help arrange a meeting with the most appropriate staff person?”
Tell the scheduler: “Thank you for your assistance.”
Key Talking Points For Congressional Meetings
Don’t be discouraged if you’re unable to see your legislator in person — a meeting with staff is also very effective. Be concise and keep your remarks short and focused. Make clear exactly what you want the Member to do.
- Share your personal story (e.g., how diabetes affects you, your family, your patients, your community, your research), and let the Member or staff person know you are a constituent. Personalize the issue. Stress why diabetes treatment and prevention are important to you.
- Keep the focus on the Special Diabetes Programs. Use the talking-points document to make the case and deliver each of your critical “asks.” Don’t feel that you have to sound like an expert. Your concern is what is important.
- Don’t let your Member of Congress evade the issue or change the subject. Ask specifically for his or her position on the Special Diabetes Programs.
- Listen -- even if his or her view differs from your own.
- Present the leave-behind packet at the end of the meeting.
- Bring your camera (or use your phone camera) to get a photo that you can post on your own or your Member’s Facebook page, or that you can submit to local media outlets.
After the Meeting
Within a week of your meeting, send a note to thank your Member of Congress and/or the staff members for their time. Do not use regular mail - it takes too long to get through the security procedures. In the note, remind them of what you discussed in your meeting.
If your Member asked questions, or was particularly interested in one aspect of the Special Diabetes Programs, seize the opportunity to follow up with a letter, fact sheet, phone call, or second meeting.
Stay in touch with the Member and his or her staff on the issue. A first visit should never be the end of contact.