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In-District Lobbying Plans

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Description

This training walks through the process of planning and setting up a successful meeting with your member of Congress back home in your community. Meeting in the local district of a member of Congress is an essential element to building connections with Congress, as it increases the likelihood of a face-to-face meeting while allowing more CCL volunteers and local people of influence to participate in lobbying. For more information on setting up meetings in Washington, D.C., see Scheduling A Meeting in DC with Congress training.

Breadcrumb
/topics/congressional-in-district-activities
TOC and Guide Section
 
Scheduling the meeting

If your liaison is handling the scheduling:

  • In many cases, the liaison will make the appointment request. Updated appointment setting instructions will be discussed on liaison calls with Amy Bennett and available in call notes for reading afterward in the liaison group.

If there is no liaison and other possibilities:

  • If there is no liaison or the liaison is not setting the appointment and your chapter is the only one in the district or state, then work as a group to determine who will be the appointment setter.
  • If there is more than one chapter in your district, coordinate with your regional or state coordinator to determine who will do it. Your next regional or state group leader calls are a good place for coordinating and planning if more than one chapter is in the district/state.
  • If there is more than one office in the district/state, discuss which district office to approach to request the meeting. Ask yourselves: is it best to meet at the office closest to you, to be open to any office, to pick the office your team can most easily reach, or to pick the office in the member’s hometown?
  • The designated appointment setter requests the meeting and follows up as needed.

Decide if your appointment request is for a staff level meeting or a face-to-face. 

  • Confirm with your member’s office their preferred method for requesting an appointment.
  • If you have a strong relationship with the staffer you wish to meet with, you can email him/her directly.
  • If scheduling 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.
Planning the meeting

Before you send your meeting request, consider the agenda and goals of the meeting as well as how it will be of interest to the Congress member or staffer. Your chance of getting a face-to-face meeting is especially good during House and Senate recesses, February 17-21, March 16-20, and, if need be, April 6-17.

Before you request a face-to-face meeting, consider how long it has been since your last face-to-face and the value of meeting with staff. If you can include a prominent community leader in the meeting, that is another good reason to ask for a face-to-face. Liaisons will get more guidance from Amy Bennett.
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 are your primary or secondary asks? (based on your history with the member of Congress, the Primary Ask (Leave-Behind), and the Making Primary & Supporting Asks document)
  • Who can attend the meeting?
    • Good candidates include the liaison, group leaders, volunteers from multiple CCL chapters and other parts of the state/district, and new volunteers who will feel empowered by the experience.
    • Bring a variety. Bringing a diversity of new members to your various meetings shows that your group is large and far-reaching.
    • If you don’t know, ask ahead of time how many people the district office can accommodate and keep your lobby team size to no more than 6-7 people.
    • Consider bringing influential community leaders such as business owners, local elected officials, university and hospital leadership, school board members, chamber presidents, nonprofit directors, faith leaders, and other high-profile community members.
    • Start by reconnecting with the key local leaders who have signed bill endorsements at www.energyinnovationact.org. Let them know the purpose of the meeting and date ranges. Ensure that any leaders you bring to the meeting are supportive of the “Ask” or will not speak against it.
  • You may want to request that other district staff join the meeting. For example, the district director is an important staffer who has the member of Congress’s ear. Sometimes the D.C. congressional staff can participate by videoconferencing in to the district office.
  • Bring and discuss a bill endorsement report for the district or state, constituent letters, letters to the editor, and any resources the office has asked for, such as the Columbia University Analysis or the Yale Climate Opinion Map for the district or state.
  • For additional advice on what to bring to a meeting and possible discussion questions, visit the Planning Your Meeting With Congress training.
Sending your meeting request

Ideally, 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:

  • 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.
  • 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!”
Important tips
  • Remember to coordinate with other chapters if yours is not the only chapter in the district/state. Teamwork matters!
  • If you are offered a meeting outside your original request, take it if you can. It won’t always be possible to get the meeting on the dates you request, but we will count all meetings held between January 21st and April 30th as being part of our In-district lobby drive.
  • For face-to-face meeting requests, look for a reply that explains when to expect a meeting offer.
  • If the Congress member was unavailable and the scheduler offered a staff-level meeting, consider asking to meet with the district director or your preferred staffer. If a staffer is offered, clarify their name and role.
  • Always reply accepting the meeting offer (or reply to adjust time). Avoid costly date mistakes by restating the day, date and time.
  • If the meeting was set far in advance, send a brief reminder a few days before, but do not ask for a reply. Send CCL attendee names/hometowns if not done previously.
  • Keep in mind that, starting in mid-April, you will be requesting a meeting for our June 9th, 2020 Lobby Day in D.C., so if you are still working in April with the scheduler to set a date in-district, it will be best to switch to asking for the June meeting.
Sample email meeting request

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 H.R.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 Congress member/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.

Sincerely,

[Your name and contact information], 

Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Invite to tour local climate impacts

Interested in personally engaging your member of Congress with an in-district climate impacts visit? CCL volunteer Nick Huey organized a nature walk with his Representative and it was covered in the media and by allies.  Here's Nick's guidance for organizing an outing:

  1. Reach out to a local climate and/or environmental expert with respectable credentials. Ask if they’d be willing to give their member a local tour to see the effects of climate change happening in their district. Many will be excited by the opportunity. Colleges and schools are a great place to find qualified local experts. Partnering with a local chapter of a national nonprofit like Audubon or Trout Unlimited adds bonus credibility.
  2. With your expert, identify a location within the Representative’s district that is actively being affected by climate change, e.g., habitat loss, crop difficulties, water levels, etc. Plan an easy nature hike that covers the widest observable range of climate change effects possible in your area (60-90 minutes max).
  3. Reach out to your member of Congress’s office and see if there would be interest in participating in an in-district constituent hike to observe the effects of climate on their voting district and to learn more about what can be done to mitigate said effects. Emphasize that you think this would be a very positive experience for the member.
  4. Invite 10-20 constituents to come on the hike. Enough to seem like a party, but few enough that it feels personal. Ask your member if they’re okay with press outreach. Many will see this as a great way to appear engaged in their district. If they are, reach out to the press.
  5. Follow up with articles and thank you letters. Ask if you can have a follow-up meeting in the coming months. Express support and gratitude for their time. 
  6. For more information click the "Watch" tab to see Nick's advice and see CCL's Hosting Successful Site Visits training.

Ending The Meeting

End your in-district meeting with a request to meet with you and/or other CCL volunteers in D.C. for our Tuesday, June 9th, 2020 Lobby Day. Ask what the member of Congress would like to discuss in June and offer your own suggestions.

After The Meeting
  1. Meet together as a team for a few minutes to share notes and consider feedback on how the meeting could have been improved.
  2. File a lobby meeting minutes report.
  3. Follow-up on items from the meeting.
Length
Press play to start the video (36m 44s)
https://vimeo.com/album/5694168
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Why In-District?
(3:06)

Starting Out
(7:25)

Coordinating the Plan
(10:27)

Additional Resources
(16:42)

Karl Danz's Story, Liaison for Rep. Eshoo
(17:44)

Local Climate Impacts Field Trip
(25:40)

Instructor(s)
  • Don Addu
  • Karl Danz
  • Nick Huey
Downloads

Download PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation.

Download the video.
Audio length
Press play to start the audio (36m 44s)
Audio embed code
Audio Outline

To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Why In-District?
(3:06)

Starting Out
(7:25)

Coordinating the Plan
(10:27)

Additional Resources
(16:42)

Karl Danz's Story, Liaison for Rep. Eshoo
(17:44)

Local Climate Impacts Field Trip
(25:40)

Instructor(s)
  • Don Addu
  • Karl Danz
  • Nick Huey
Downloads
Go Deeper

If you haven’t attended a lobby meeting before, consider viewing the Lobby Meeting Practice Scenario training.

Discussion Topic
To Print
Instructions for printing this page on Community.
Category
Training
Topics
Lobbying Congress
Format
Audio / Video, Presentation
File Type
Google Slides, PowerPoint (.pptx)