Scheduling A Meeting With Congress
Walk through the process of scheduling a meeting and using the Appointment Setter Log step-by-step. This training is specifically for CCL liaisons or appointment setters scheduling our House or Senate meetings with Congress during CCL's national lobby days. Follow this guide for a streamlined process, while keeping in mind you know your unique relationship with your Congress member and staff and what might work best. For advice on setting up meetings outside of CCL's national lobby days, see In-District Lobbying Plans.
Before You Get Started
- Constituent - Person registered to vote in district
- MOC - Member of Congress (House or Senate)
- Scheduler - Congressional Staff who sets in-person meetings with the Congress Member and/or staffers
- Legislative Staff - Staff employees of House or Senate members: Legislative Director (LD), Legislative Assistant (LA)- also referred to as energy/environment aide, Legislative Correspondent (LC) and District Staff.
- Appointment Setter Log: The tool used to keep track of your progress throughout the appointment setting process.
Location of Meetings:
- DC - Meeting in Washington DC on Capitol Hill.
Legislative Director or energy aide have offices in DC.
The Congress member may be here when Congress is “in session.”
- In-District - Meeting at office in the Congressional district.
Maybe one or more locations; the district director works in a local district office. The Congress member may be here on weekends and during a “recess”.
- Virtual - Meetings may be arranged on Zoom, by conference call or other methods depending on the preferences of the Congressional office.
Create Meeting Objectives
Before you send your meeting request, consider the agenda of the meeting and how it will be of interest to the Congress member or staffer. Discuss it at your chapter meeting or with other members of your team.
- Be sure to update the reason for your meeting request or it might be denied if the scheduler thinks it is repetitive. How are you advancing the conversation?
- How can you deepen your relationship with the office and move your MOC up the ladder of support? Some Congress members have met with CCL before, so it’s important to know exactly why you want to meet with your MOC.
- What are the known priorities of your MOC? Part of the request process is getting to know your member, make sure to review the How to Get to Know Your Member training video.
- How will your reason to meet pique the interest of the Congressional office? Try to include fresh and new information in your meeting objectives to show that your relationship with the office is progressing.
Is your MOC brand new to you?
Consider setting up part of your meeting as a “get to know you” session, use any of the ideas in the In-District Lobbying Plans training for more information.
With Whom Do You Want To Meet?
Decide on the type of meeting you want before sending the request. Do you want a face-to-face meeting with the member of Congress or is a staff meeting a better option for your meeting objectives? The request process is slightly different depending on the type of meeting requested. We suggest you still start your request process with the MOC’s scheduler in either case, but you can suggest a staff level meeting if that is your preference.
Face to Face Meetings
Consider a face-to-face meeting if you have not had a recent meeting directly with the MOC. The office scheduler is the person who handles these requests. If you recently met face-to-face, the Congress member’s scheduler may see your request as unnecessary. Even if you request a face to face meeting keep in mind about 75-80% of meetings are staff level. Members are often called away for votes or other meetings.
If you do have a face-to-face meeting with the member, you must have a constituent attend. Having a tentative list of attendees sent with the initial request will help move the process along. Check with your fellow chapter members ahead of time to determine who can attend. Do not promise a constituent will attend if you are not sure.
Staff Level Meetings
Staff meetings might be more productive than meetings with the MOC depending on your meeting goals. Be sure you know who deals with climate policy in the office. It is very important to meet with the person who knows the issue and works with the MOC on the topic so you make best use of everyone’s time. If you meet with the right person you will have more time to discuss policy details, concerns and endorsements, and to share resources. We still suggest you start with the MOC’s scheduler. You might mention that you know the MOC is busy and would like to meet with the key staffer. By mentioning the name of the correct Legislative Staff in your original request, the scheduler will understand the depth of the conversation you want to have and will avoid setting up a meeting with the wrong person. The scheduler will often then hand it off to the staffer or suggest you contact the staffer directly. You might forward the schedulers suggestion to give your request to the staffer extra weight.
Requesting a Meeting and Using the Log
Keep in mind that the meeting request steps mirror the Log action steps. When you move forward in the scheduling process, you should be updating the Appointment Setting Log at the same time.
- If you are listed as the designated appointment setter or primary liaison for your MOC, you will get an email six weeks before the lobby event asking for confirmation that you are setting the appointment for your MOC for that event.
- Please click on the link to confirm or decline (do not click reply). If you’re not able to make the appointment, select NO and please suggest a co-liaison or someone you have been in contact with that you know is willing to make the appointment instead.
- If you are able to make the appointment, please select Yes and you will receive an email that provides a personal link to access and update the Log. Click on the link to open up the Log and get acquainted.
MOC Office Preferences and Log Step 1
Contact the office to confirm the MOC office preference for appt setting (whether the request should be sent by email, or webform submission). You might try calling the DC or district office since during the pandemic fewer staff are in the offices. Hill staff change jobs frequently so you may need to confirm the information for the current MOC Scheduler and key Legislative Staff. Sending a request to the wrong person can delay the process and create unnecessary work for the Congressional office and you so please make sure your information is correct. If you are in regular contact with the office and you have current information, this step is not necessary.
Log Action Step 1: Edit congressional staffer names/emails (if needed).
Create and Send Meeting Request and Log Step 2
Send your meeting request about four to six weeks ahead of the requested time (modify if you know office preference). Remember that securing an appointment usually takes multiple follow-ups. Be sure essential info is included that the scheduler needs to process the request. Here are some tips:
- Include Who, What, When, Where, Why.
- If you can include the bill number please do (There will be a new bill number when it is reintroduced in the 117th Congress).
- Double check key staff names and spellings. House emails are in this format: John.Doe@mail.house.gov. Senate emails include the Senator’s name (I.e. Smith) in the format: Jane_Doe@Smith.senate.gov.
- Customize sample email based on your relationship with the office. Edit template or create your own (under 150 words).
- Do not assume the MOC office will remember CCL or solutions we support.
- Send the request to one person only.
Log Action Step 2: Initial Request Made - Awaiting Response
This is one of the most important steps! After you send the request, Log this step promptly to allow the CCL support team to concentrate their time to help those who are stuck.
Response to Your Request or Followup Made and Log Steps 3 and/or 4
You may have to wait a few weeks before getting a response from the office. There is also a possibility that they will not respond until the week of the event. Try not to get discouraged!
As you build a trusting relationship you can start to delicately ask how to improve your communication with the office. Observe the office staff’s email style.
Log Action Steps 3 and/or 4: Response Received, Followup Made - Awaiting Response
If the office responds to your request or if you followed up with the office and are awaiting a response, update the progress in the Log.
Appointment Set! and Log Step 5
- Reply to the office and confirm the day of the week, date and time zone.
- Confirm Zoom ID or phone number.
- Send a brief agenda, your Primary Ask, and relevant meeting materials a few days ahead.
Log Action Step 5: Appointment Set
Log these steps when the meeting is confirmed only once (unless the meeting time changes). Log entry not needed for progress after the meeting is set.
Whenever you use the Log, you will get an email summary of the actions you took which confirms success of your submission. That summary will also have a copy of your Log link for convenience. To check the progress you’ve made, you can view your summarized Log steps on the right hand side of the log portal.
After your meeting, we ask that you submit one report with Meeting Minutes. Please review the minutes for accuracy and submit within 48 hours. There should be one report per meeting submitted, so make sure to confirm who will submit them to avoid duplicates. Please submit a report even if there was not a meeting. You can submit your meeting minutes using the CCL Action Tracker and clicking ‘Log an Action’ → ‘Contact with Legislator’ → ‘Lobby Meeting’.
MOC staffers get 100’s of emails daily. For a better chance at getting a response sooner, keep your emails brief and avoid cc’ing others. Save your sent emails so you can forward your original request if needed. Also, check your spam folders in case their responses end up there. Log your progress simultaneously so that you and the CCL support team can keep track of the progress you’re making.
If you have followed up three times and there is still no response, you can call the office to confirm the email address or leave a message suggesting that the request may have gone to spam. Mention you will resend the email and would the staffer please be on the lookout.
Keep in mind that less is more! Make it easy for the office to respond and as it gets closer to lobby day, suggest a time: “Will 3:00 p.m. work or can you suggest another time?” We have seen that staffers are more likely to confirm when you suggest times as it makes their lives easier. Keep in mind, every office is different - follow their lead!
March 2021 Virtual Meeting Request Template
Subject line suggestion: CCL Virtual Lobby Days March 22-26 Meeting Request
Let me share our thanks for all that you and your colleagues are doing to help constituents during this difficult time. I hope you are well and safe.
Our local Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) volunteers would like to meet with [member's name], the week of March 22-26, however if that is not possible we would be delighted to meet with your energy/environment aide [add staffer name]. Meeting via Zoom is our preference but we would be happy to meet on another platform. Let us know your preference and we will train our team.
Revisiting your support and questions with respect to the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.
Inquire about the Congress member’s perspectives on climate policy advancement in 2021.
Share the new 2020 Household Impact Study showing the local economic impacts of the Energy Innovation Act
[Add a custom topic addressing past concerns or new topic of interest.]
CCL members [list yourself and any confirmed meeting team members] from [location/district] will be attending.
I look forward to hearing back from you with a meeting time and your preferred method for remote meetings.
[Your name and contact information]
Generic Meeting Request Template
The sample request below includes all the critical information the scheduler needs to move your meeting request forward.
Please edit as needed or create your own short email request. Be sure you call the Congressional office to update current staffers names and emails before sending--staff of MOC change jobs frequently.
Subject line suggestion: CCL Meeting Request [Date]
Dear Mr. / Ms. [Scheduler],
My name is [your name], with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a nonpartisan nonprofit volunteer advocacy group with almost 600 grassroots chapters. [Add if you are a constituent, add an appreciation of the member’s work, mention local or personal concern.]
CCL supports a market-based solution to climate change that encourages emissions reductions while helping the economy. We support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act which places a graduated fee on carbon and returns net revenue to households.
We would like to meet [give date and meeting platform] to discuss [give a current/new reason to meet, such as discussing the bill or a follow up on a past discussion, etc.] . If this is a travel day for the Congressmember/Senator we would be pleased to meet with [name of staffer (important so the scheduler knows you are happy to meet with the energy aide --so the scheduler is less likely to give you an immediate rejection email].
[Add list of who will attend and hometowns if known. Do not promise constituents unless you know they can attend.]
I look forward to hearing back from you with a meeting time.
[Your name and contact information],
Citizens’ Climate Lobby
We are here to help!
If you have any questions, email Amy Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org and she or her Lobby Day Team will help you.
Intro and Agenda
Why Use The Log?
Steps To Take & How To Use the Log
How to Get Support & Tips
How To Use the Appointment Setting Log
Intro and Agenda
Why Use The Log?
Steps To Take & How To Use the Log
How to Get Support & Tips