Face-to-face visits with your elected officials (or their staff) are the most influential form of advocacy. This direct lobbying can be time-consuming, but it can also be fun, interesting, and highly motivating for those participate!
This guide will walk you the process of setting up a group lobby visit in your area. There are a number of times in a year when members of Congress leave Washington, DC, and return to their home districts/states for "Congressional Work Periods". These are usually around holidays, and are a great opportunity for effective advocacy.
Relationships are key to effective advocacy and organizing, so we encourage you to view all interactions with Congressional offices as opportunities for building relationship. Ideally you want those offices to see you and your congregation (coalition, group, etc.) as a credible, powerful, and helpful voice for your issue. Your approach and behavior should move you towards these goals. Plan to focus on a single issue, and for a meeting that will last 15-45 minutes.
1. Assemble a Group:
While it's certainly possible and effective to arrange a visit for a single individual, we recommend putting together a delegation. Group visits are more influential, and the experience will build relationships and skills among all participants. First, clearly identify the issue you'll be lobbying on (pick only one!!!) and the kind of delegation you seek. A good place to start is with members of your congregation. Interfaith groups and broader coalition delegations (business, secular non-profits, religious, etc) are also good options. Second, identify a rough timeframe for your visit and compile a list of all those who are potentially interested. This step is important because you may not get your first choice for a time to visit, so plan for some back and forth. Try to keep delegations fairly small, as in 3-5 people. Large delegations can be difficult to coordinate.
2. Schedule a Visit:
Check your Member's website (see introduction for how to find it) for information on setting up a meeting—many offices require a written request. If you cannot find such info, call the office and ask to speak to the person in charge of scheduling. Identify yourself as a constituent and member of [name your congregation/coalition], and request a meeting with the Representative/Senator on [name your issue]. Setting up a visit often requires several follow-ups calls. Plan for the process to take 1-3 weeks.
3. Prepare for the Visit:
After the Visit
Appointment Request Template
[[Your Address] [Date] The Honorable [full name]
U.S. Senate (or U.S. House of Representatives)
Washington, DC 20510 (20515 for House)
Dear Senator (or Representative) [last name]:
I am a member of the [UU Congregation, coalition, etc] in [your city], and we'd like to meet with you about [issue]. We are hoping that you might be available sometime in the [specify time and date range].
I can also be reached by phone at ______ or email at _______.
Thank you for considering our request to meet with you.
For more information contact uuawo @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Wednesday, August 24, 2011.
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