Scheduling A Meeting In DC With Congress
What Are Your 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.
- What are the known priorities of your member of Congress?
- How can you deepen your relationship with the office and move your member up the ladder of support?
- How will your reason to meet pique the interest of the Congressional office?
- What would your primary or secondary ask be?
- Who can attend the meeting? (a constituent can join by phone when none can attend a D.C. lobby meeting. Inform email@example.com of name and phone number in advance)
Is your member brand new to you?
Consider setting up In-District Lobbying Plans ahead of your meeting in DC as a “get to know you” session.
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 enough? The request process is slightly different depending on the type of meeting requested.
Face to Face Meetings
Consider a face-to-face meeting if you have not had a recent meeting directly with the member. The Congress member’s 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 unrealistic or burdensome.
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 your request along. Check with your fellow chapter members ahead of time to see who can attend. Do not say a constituent will attend if you are not sure.
Staff Level Meetings
Staff meetings might be more productive than meetings with the member. You have more time to discuss policy details, concerns and endorsements, and to share resources. For staff level meeting requests, email the staffer directly. For staff level meeting requests, ask if it is OK to email the staffer directly. The scheduler handles the member’s appointments while staffers often set their own.
Note: Sending a request to the wrong person can delay the process and create unnecessary work for the Congressional office and you! Send the request to one person only. We suggest not to copy other staffers; their email boxes are full.
Note for D.C. Lobby Day Schedules: Master schedules of attendees are put together by CCL staff with a computer program. The final schedule will not be available to you until five days before the meeting.
Sending Your Meeting Request
Send your meeting request about five to six weeks ahead of the requested time. Remember that securing an appointment usually takes multiple contacts. Here are some tips on how to send a request that gets a response:
- If making a face-to-face meeting, contact the Congressional office to ask for their preferred appointment setting process. Their preference might be an email to a special scheduler or filling out a web form.
- Confirm 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.
- Confirm the scheduler’s name and preferred email address for follow-up.
- Busy Congressional offices often prefer brief (less than 200 words) emails over phone calls.
- Keep copies of all correspondence.
What If You Don’t Hear Back?
First, check your spam. If you do not get a reply to your initial meeting request within one to two weeks, resend (forward) the original request. For meetings being scheduled in D.C., record these follow-ups in the Appointment Setting Log.
Polite persistence is important, yet be aware that communications more than every 7-14 days may be perceived as annoying. Offices are now receiving up to nine times their normal rate of correspondence, so showing appreciation and empathy for a staffer’s busy day goes a long way.
In your next follow-up, try being very concise: “Will 3:00 p.m. work for you? Thanks!”
- For face-to-face meeting requests, look for a reply that explains when to expect a meeting offer. If the scheduler replies that the member is unavailable, then send an email meeting request to your preferred staffer.
- Always reply to accept meeting offer (or reply to adjust time). Avoid costly date mistakes by restating the day, date, and time.
- If the Congress member was unavailable and the scheduler offered a staff-level meeting, clarify the staffer’s name.
- Send CCL attendee names/hometowns if not done previously.
- If the meeting was set far in advance, send a brief reminder a few days before, but do not ask for a reply.
June Virtual Meeting Request Template
Subject line suggestion: CCL Virtual June Lobby Days [June XX] Meeting Request
Let me share our appreciation and thanks for all that you and your colleagues are doing to help those in need during this time. The volunteers at our local chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby hope that all of you and all your families are staying healthy and safe.
While we know you are working on solutions to COVID-19 related health and economic hardships, we would like to meet to discuss another challenge that continues to concern us--climate change. Though we need to deal with the pandemic first, we believe we can address it effectively while also gaining ground with climate solutions and we’d like to share some specific legislation to that end with you.
We would like to meet remotely with [member's name], on [June 16 (Senate) or June 17 (House)] however if that is not possible we would be delighted to meet with your energy/environment aide [add staffer name].
CCL members [list yourself and any confirmed meeting team members] from [location/district] will be attending.
So we can prepare for the meeting, which remote systems do you prefer? We are very familiar with Zoom and would be open to other remote systems such as Skype or phone conference lines.
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 request forward for a DC or in-district meeting request.
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/meeting location]
Dear Mr. / Ms. [Scheduler],
My name is [your name], with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a nonpartisan nonprofit volunteer advocacy group with 564 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 HR 763, 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 location] 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.]
[For DC meetings: We prefer Senate meetings in the morning and House meetings in the afternoon. If possible, we request our meeting starts at the top of the hour so that we are able to attend other meetings on the Hill.]
I look forward to hearing back from you with a meeting time.
[Your name and contact information],
Citizens’ Climate Lobby
Using The Appointment Setting Log (DC Lobby Day Meetings Only)
If you are responsible for scheduling the appointment for your group for a CCL conference in DC, you will need to use the Appointment Setting Log.
- Emails will be sent out to all appointment setters about two months before each lobby day to confirm their status. Please respond to this email as soon as possible. Check your spam file if missing and contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you lose it.
- The email will provide a personal link to access and update the log. The email subject line will include your state/district (format NY01, NY02, NYSR, NYJR).
- Use the log’s drop down menu to update your appointment status including staff names, correspondence updates with your member, progress notes and the appointment time.
- It is critical for D.C. lobby plans for CCL to have you enter a status report update regularly and especially three weeks before the lobby day, even if you are in a holding pattern.
- Once confirmed, the appointment must be entered in the drop down of the log: “5. Appointment Set.” If you enter it elsewhere it will not get into the schedule.
- For appointments that are challenging, CCL’s deadline for a final update is eight days before the lobby day. We will need your determination on whether:
- a) the meeting is still possible but cannot be set until after the deadline. If so, enter the meeting as Log #7: Meeting expected but cannot be set until after the log closes (set to TBD) (To Be Determined)
- b) the meeting is not expected. If so, enter the meeting as “Log #8. Expect no face to face or staff level.” In this case CCL will schedule a team to deliver or drop off materials to the office on lobby day.
- Contact Amy with updates after the log closes.
- If your appointment status changes after master schedules are emailed out five days ahead of lobby day (you will get a copy), then please inform the lobby team assigned to the meeting and email@example.com of the updated meeting time.
Intro and Agenda
The Meeting Request Process
How To Use the Appointment Setting Log
Intro and Agenda
The Meeting Request Process