Meeting with your elected Members of Congress is a powerful way to raise the profile of issues you care about and to effect change. It is difficult for Members of Congress and their staff to be well-versed on every issue, so this is an opportunity to educate them. You do not need to be a scholar or expert to make a contribution to a policy maker’s understanding of the abuses and oppression suffered by IJM’s clients. Remember, meeting with constituents is part of an elected official’s job. It is also how policy-makers gauge what is important to those living in their district or state. And it is how we help decide our government’s priorities.
STEP 1: Decide which Congressional offices you want to meet with.
We each have three federal legislators who represent us—two Senators and one Representative. These Members have offices in your home state/district where they and their staff can meet with you in person.
To find out who your Senators and Representative are, go to www.senate.gov or www.house.gov. You can meet with one of them, or with all three! Once you’re on their website, find out which of their district offices is closest to where you live (usually under the “Contact Me” section of the website).
STEP 2: Get the office's scheduling information.
Call the district office where you’d like to meet. Let the receptionist know that you are planning to send in a meeting request and ask for the name of the district scheduler and his/her contact information. Find out whether the scheduler prefers to receive meeting requests by email or fax.
STEP 3: Send in your meeting request.
Download a sample meeting request and fill in your information, as well as the names of other constituents who plan to attend with you (if this is not finalized, don’t worry—you can update this later with the scheduler).Fax or email your meeting request to your Member’s district scheduler.
STEP 4: Confirm your request was received.
Two to three days after you send in your request, call the district scheduler to make sure he/she has received your request. These offices get a lot of requests, so you want to make sure yours didn’t get lost in the pile.
STEP 5: Follow-up.
Continue to follow up with the scheduler every few days to make sure your meeting gets scheduled. It can sometimes take several follow-up calls/emails to get your meeting scheduled. Persistence is key! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are having trouble getting your meeting scheduled.
STEP 6: Schedule your meeting!
If the Member of Congress is unavailable, the scheduler will direct you to a legislative aide who will meet with you. Don’t be discouraged! This meeting is still very worthwhile. Aides will often recommend positions to Members of Congress, and making sure that they are well informed and aware of support in the district is very important.
STEP 7: Prepare.
Once you have your meeting scheduled, be sure to contact us at email@example.com. We can provide you with relevant legislative updates and walk through the meeting with you if you have questions. Also, do a little background research and consider what element of the issue will engage your Member of Congress on a personal level.
STEP 8: Find others to join you.
Just like everyone else, Members of Congress are impacted by personal relationships. Consider who might be the best people to bring with you to an in-district meeting (a prominent person in your community, someone with first-hand experience of the issue, etc). Before attending the meeting, make sure everyone coming with you is clear on the purpose of the meeting and is on the same page. Review IJM’s sample meeting agenda, tips for a successful meeting, and talking points to help you prepare.
Now you’re ready to meet! Be sure to visit our website for information on how to follow-up after your meeting is over!