Contacting Members of Congress

Contacting Members of Congress

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CONTACTING YOUR CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION

1) Who are your legislators?
  1. To find your Representative to the US House, enter your zipcode into the following website: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
  2. To find your Senators, choose your state at the following website: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?State=IL
  3. What is the issue?
    1. Know the specifics - what bill are you supporting? What does the bill say?
    2. Have some statistics to present. Make sure the person you are talking to knows you have done your homework!
    3. Much of this information will be available in action alerts. If you need more information on one of these topics, contact the Public Policy Office at publicpolicy@ncadv.org .
    4. How does the proposed bill impact you, people you know, and/or the legislator’s constituents?
2) How do I contact my legislators?
  1. You have many options! You can contact them by
    1. Telephone
    2. E-mail
    3. Snail mail (currently, incoming mail is undergoing extensive scrutiny, so it might take up to six weeks to reach your legislator) or fax
    4. Set up an in-person meeting with your legislators and/or their staff
  2. When you have used the above links to identify your legislators, click on the name of the person you want to contact. It will take you to their websites, which should have contact information. Addresses, phone numbers and fax numbers are usually at the bottom of the page. There will also be a ‘contact us’ tab, which will allow you to e-mail your legislators.
3) What do I say in a letter or an e-mail?
  1. Introduce yourself. The reader should know your name, where you’re from and, if you are calling on behalf of a particular organization, the name of the organization.
  2. Tell your legislator what you want - be specific! Include the bill number, bill name (if applicable), a one or two sentence summary, a few statistics for good measure, and discuss why the bill or action alert is important to you.
  3. Make it personal! Do you have any stories about the issue at hand, or do you know people who do? Share those stories!
  4. Be brief! Share a story, but be sure to be concise. The reader will have limited time.
  5. Thank your legislator for his/her time.
  6. If you are writing a traditional (not e-mail) letter, send or fax it to the DC office.
4) How do I call an office?
  1. Call the DC office, give the receptionist your name and ask to speak to the aid in charge of your issue, in this case, domestic violence.
  2. Provide the staffer with the information you would include in a letter:
    1. Introduce yourself, tell the staffer where you are from, and, if you are calling on behalf of an organization, identify that organization.
    2. Tell the staffer what you want - be specific! Give him/her the bill number, a very brief summary, a few statistics if desired, and tell him/her why the bill is important to you.
    3. Make it personal. How has the issue under consideration impacted you, people you know, or the legislator’s constituents?
    4. Visit http://fcnl.org/assets/lobbying/LobbyVisitRoadMap.pdf for help in planning your meeting!
    5. If (s)he asks you a question you cannot answer, do not panic! Tell him/her you will get back to him/her with that information.
    6. Bring a fact sheet or other material to leave with the staffer.
    7. Be brief. These folks are as busy as you are!
    8. If the staffer is not available, leave a message . . . and call back the next day, just for good measure! (S)he might be busy when you call, so suggest setting up a phone meeting at a mutually convenient time.
5) How do I set up an in-person meeting?
  1. With a staff member
    Your congresspeople have several offices, both in DC and in your state.
    1. Staff in the state offices are more constituent-oriented; staff in DC are more focused on the legislator’s legislative agenda.
    2. Staff people in both offices are good points of contact. Staff in state offices are more likely to have time to meet with you and are, mentioned above, more constituent-oriented (plus, you do not have to travel!), but the DC staffer is the person managing the legislator’s legislative portfolio.
    3. Call either the most convenient state office or the DC office, introduce yourself, and ask to schedule a visit. Be sure to specify that you are calling about domestic violence policy so the receptionist puts you in contact with the appropriate legislative aide if applicable!
    4. Bring others with you to the meeting if possible. You need to show the staff person that this issue is important to many people, just not you.
    5. See above under “How do I Call an Office” as a guide for your meeting.
    6. Visit http://fcnl.org/assets/lobbying/LobbyVisitRoadMap.pdf for help in planning your meeting!
    7. Bring fact sheets and other written materials to leave with the staff member.
    8. Thank the staff member for his/her time!
    9. Send a follow-up letter or e-mail to thank him/her for her/his time a second time and ask if you can be of any assistance.
  2. With a legislator
    1. Call the DC office and ask how to schedule an in-state issue visit. The receptionist should be able to guide you through the process.
    2. Do not meet with your legislator alone. You want the congressperson to know that many of his/her constituents feel as you do! Bringing friends and colleagues with you illustrates this point.
    3. See “How do I Call an Office” as a guide for your meeting.
    4. Know what you are going to say before you go in there!
    5. Visit http://fcnl.org/assets/lobbying/LobbyVisitRoadMap.pdf for help in planning your meeting!
    6. Bring written materials to leave with the legislator.
    7. Send a follow-up letter or e-mail to thank him/her for her/his time and ask if you can be of any assistance.
    8. Always be respectful, but don’t be nervous - remember, your legislators work for you!
6) Letters to the Editor are wonderful!
7) Attend campaign events and ask your legislators in a public forum whether or not (s)he supports specific legislation and why or why not. Make sure you think about your question beforehand!

References:

http://fcnl.org 
http://www.heartsandminds.org/poverty/actions.htm

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