Checklist for a Successful Meeting with Your Members of Congress
How to Make the Most of your meeting
Consider the following to ensure a productive meeting that runs smoothly.
Determine Your Message
Before your meeting, you will need to decide what your message will be. This is going to depend largely on the purpose and goal of your meeting, and can range from education about a broad issue area that you work on, to a decisive “ask” for support on a specific piece of federal tax legislation.
See some current messages that the Council is actively engaging on, or reach out to us for guidance on developing your own message for issues you are working on.
Tell Your Story Effectively
Your grantmaking and leadership contribute to strengthening populations which your lawmakers were elected to represent. It is important to highlight this parallel when engaging and communicating with policymakers to demonstrate your shared goal of supporting and improving a particular population.
Access our guide for telling stories that resonate with your policymakers.
Leave-Behind Materials to Bring
- Business cards. Make sure to bring plenty of business cards to present to the individual who greets you at the front desk, and to whomever you meet with. Also make sure to get their business cards, as they will have direct contact information for the staff member.
- “About Us” 1-pager for your Foundation. Particularly when you are meeting with a Member or one of their staff members for the first time, it is incredibly helpful for them to have information on-hand after the meeting to refer to. As much as possible, try to make sure that this leave behind is concise and includes your mission, program areas, total giving (if possible, by district or state), and a particularly compelling example or story that illustrates the importance of your work.
NOTE: Given the current climate of skepticism toward endowed funds, the Council recommends strongly against conveying your organization in terms of a ratio (i.e. “We are Organization ABC. We have $XX in assets, and make $YY in grants.”). Instead, we recommend emphasizing your giving in conjunction with programming or the amount of time your organization has been serving your community.
- Relevant information or data. For example, if you have decided the topic of your meeting will be ‘how to increase access and affordability of healthy foods in your community,’ be sure to bring information that you have (from research you have commissioned, from your grantees, from other credible sources, etc.) to support the case you are trying to make.
NOTE: Remember, you can discuss broad policy areas and make the case for a certain perspective or position on that issue without “lobbying.” As long as you do not ask your Members of Congress or their staff to take a position (or vote in favor of or against) on a current piece of legislation, this is considered advocacy—which is permissible under the law.
- Summary of “asks.” If you do plan to engage in lobbying with specific “asks,” it is immensely helpful for you to summarize those asks with relevant legislative information (i.e. bill numbers, when the bill was introduced, current co-sponsors, etc.) for reference after you leave. It will provide your Members of Congress and their staff a quick reference for a reminder of your meeting.
NOTE: If you would like a sample or guidance for constructing this, the Policy Team is happy to help.
Remember to follow-up with a thank you to whomever you met with! This serves the purpose of both reminding them what you discussed, but also gives you a channel of opportunity to continue the conversation.
If possible, we recommend sending a brief ‘thank you’ email within the 24-hour window of time following your meeting. Be sure to remind them of your organization, what you discussed (including any “asks” with the relevant legislative information), and any other items or information you promised to follow-up with.
As a supplement to email follow-up, social media is also a good way to connect with policymakers following a meeting with their office. For example, if you are meeting with your Member directly, ask to take a picture with him or her and tweet it at them! Or, post it with a brief ‘thank you’ to his or her Facebook page.
Let us Know how it Went!
Sharing your advocacy experiences and stories with us helps us create and improve our resources and programming for your use. It also allows us to take an audit of which of your colleagues are working on the same issues as you, and begin to identify opportunities for you to connect with and share insight with your peers.