Scheduling A Meeting In DC With Congress
Scheduling a Meeting in DC with Congress is part of the Working With Congress series.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Sample email meeting request
Subject line: Meeting request with [Rep XX at XX location office for Tues. June 11]
Dear Mr. / Ms. [scheduler or staffer],
My name is [your name], with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a nonpartisan nonprofit volunteer advocacy group with over 500 grassroots chapters. Thank you for [insert appreciation].
We would like to meet Tuesday June 11, 2019 in Washington DC. CCL supports the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, a market-based solution to climate change that encourages emissions reductions while helping the economy. We would like to meet to discuss how climate solutions can be a bridge (rather than wedge) and to hear your concerns.
[Add list of who will attend, if known and hometowns. Do not promise constituents unless you know they can attend.]
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]
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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