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, DC see Scheduling A Meeting in DC with Congress training.

Breadcrumb
/topics/congressional-in-district-activities
Related Trainings
In-District Lobbying Plans is part of the Congressional In-District Activities series.
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 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.
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. Discuss it at your chapter meeting or with other members of your team.

Is your member of Congress newly elected?
If so, think about setting up a short meeting with the office briefly as early into the year as possible to drop off some homemade goodies (under $10 value), or a congratulations card signed by the members of your chapter. This could be a short meeting in the district without a detailed policy agenda. Consider setting up a 15 minute meeting with the district staff. Bring a sincere appreciation of their work. Consider bringing in a batch of home baked cookies (purchased items are not allowed).  A small kindness can start the relationship off on the right foot.  A suggested goal is to learn who-does-what in the office, their preferred meeting arrangements and learning their priorities for the year ahead. Respect for their time and preferences will help open doors for future meetings. Sometimes it takes new members of Congress several months to get their office set up and their staff hired, so you may need to be flexible.

  • 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 based on your history with the member of Congress, the Primary Ask Leave Behind, and the Making Primary and 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 the influencer letters in the Grasstops Engagement Tracker. 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 signed endorsements, constituent letters, letters to the editor and any resources the office has asked for, such as the REMI or Household Impact Study 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 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 to accept 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 11th, 2019 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: Meeting request with [Rep XX at XX location office for XXMonth/XXDay]

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].

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.]

I look forward to hearing back from you with a meeting time.

Sincerely,

[Your name and contact information]

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 11th, 2019 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 (38m 46s)
https://vimeo.com/album/5694168
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Why In-District?
(2:23)

Starting Out
(5:13)

Coordinating the Plan
(12:31)

Additional Resources
(18:21)

Karl Danz's Story, Liaison for Rep. Eshoo
(19:12)

Mike & Robin Hoy's Story, Liaisons for Rep. Fitzpatrick
(27:13)

Wrap-up
(35:53)

Instructor(s)

Amy Bennett

Karl Danz

Robin & Mike Hoy

Downloads

Download PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation.

Download the video.
Audio length
Press play to start the audio (38m 46s)
Audio embed code
Audio Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Why In-District?
(2:23)

Starting Out
(5:13)

Coordinating the Plan
(12:31)

Additional Resources
(18:21)

Karl Danz's Story, Liaison for Rep. Eshoo
(19:12)

Mike & Robin Hoy's Story, Liaisons for Rep. Fitzpatrick
(27:13)

Wrap-up
(35:53)

Instructor(s)

Amy Bennett

Karl Danz

Robin & Mike Hoy

Downloads
Go Deeper

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

Discussion Topic
To Print
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Category
Training
Topics
Lobbying Congress
Format
Audio / Video, Presentation
File Type
Google Slides, PowerPoint (.pptx)
Training Resources

Primary Ask Leave Behind

Making Primary and Supporting Asks

Meeting Plan Template

Lobby Meeting Minutes Tool

The resources above are specific to this training, see all resources associated with Lobbying Congress.