In-district visits can be very effective, as you usually have a good amount of time to meet with your member of Congress and their home offices aren’t as busy as their offices in Washington. Because district offices are local, you also have the opportunity to bring a group of people to advocate with you. All members of Congress have a long recess, or “district work period” in August, but NETWORK’s Government Relations team can let you know of other times during the year when the House and/or Senate are on break.
If you are interested in scheduling an in-district meeting with your elected official, contact NETWORK’s Grassroots Organizer Meg Olson. If you are not able to meet with your member of Congress, it is still valuable to engage staff in dialogue about the issues and build relationships with them. If your meeting will be in Washington, D.C. view our resources for D.C. meetings here.
Gather your group
- Invite constituents who are passionate about the issue—and are in full support of NETWORK’s position on it. While it’s good to have some issue experts in the room, NETWORK will provide you with all of the background you need on a bill to have a successful visit.
- Invite constituents from a variety of backgrounds, such as faith leaders, heads of organizations, people who work in direct service, and people who are directly affected by the issue.
Call the district office to request a meeting
- Find the district office number on your Congressperson’s website.
- Let the scheduler know who will be present at the meeting and what issue you will be discussing.
- The district office may ask you for a written request that you can send via email.
- Call and confirm the meeting and the number of attendees a few days before your visit.
Prepare for the visit
NETWORK’s staff is happy to assist you with:
- Researching your member of Congress, so that you have a sense of where she or he may be on an issue or bill.
- Reviewing the legislation and providing talking points.
- Determining what the legislative “ask” will be (ie., co-sponsoring a bill or voting “yes”).
- Preparing a one-page summary of NETWORK’s position to leave behind with your member of Congress.
- You can also view NETWORK’s Voting Record Archives in Connection magazine to see how your elected officials have voted in the past.
Attend the visit
- Dress professionally and arrive on time.
- Have each person introduce her/himself by sharing their name and where they are from. Have everyone name the groups/organizations they represent and tell how many people are involved in each.
- Start off by saying something positive about the elected official, even if it’s thanking them for a bill that is completely unrelated to the issue you are talking about today or simply thanking them for their work—it’s a tough job!
- Explain why you are here and provide some background on the bill.
- Have each person briefly explain why they support or oppose the bill, using a personal story to illustrate their points.
- Make the “ask.” Give the person you are meeting with some time to respond, but try not to let them get off track!
- Record key points of the conversation and take note of questions that you can’t answer. Offer to find information and follow up with unanswered questions.
- Thank the person you are meeting with for their time.
- Give your member of Congress and/or the staff the leave behind. Be sure to get a business card from the staff.
- If you met with a staff person, find out the next time the member of Congress will be in the district and set a tentative time to meet.
- Don’t forget- try to get a group photo with your elected official so NETWORK can share it on social media!
Debrief with the group
- What did we hear?
- How do we feel?
- How did it go? How did we do as a team?
- Plan next steps
Follow up after your visit
- Write a thank you note to your member of Congress or the staff with a summary of the visit.
- Email answers to any questions you said you’d research.
- Pay attention to see if your elected official followed through on your “ask” (ie., vote on a bill or co-sponsor it).
- Continue the dialogue with your member of Congress and her/his staff.