Meeting a member of congress
How to schedule a meeting with a member of Congress:
Meeting with your representatives is your right as a citizen and also one of the best ways to educate them about the importance of sending insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria. Your voice as a constituent is critical, regardless of your representatives’ stance on the issue. Even if your Member of Congress has been critical of foreign aid in the past, YOU have the power to change their opinion. If your member has always been supportive of global health programs, then they need to hear and understand that their constituency (that’s you!) is behind them on this issue and that they should both continue their support and be vocal in favor of sending life-saving bed nets to combat malaria.
The first step to holding a meeting is scheduling it. It’s important to reach out to your Congressional office several weeks ahead of your ideal date. Members of Congress have limited but dedicated time to meet with their constituents both in their district and in their Capitol Hill offices.
Members of Congress have staff tightly managing their schedules, so contacting their scheduler is key. Each member’s website should have instructions for requesting meetings. You can also call an office directly and ask for the right person to email about meeting requests.
Once you send your note, you should follow up within a few days with another email or a phone call. Ask for the scheduler and if he or she is not available, ask to leave a voice mail. You may have to do this a few times, but persistence pays off!
If you reach the scheduler: Introduce yourself as a constituent and describe the email you sent, even if the scheduler hasn’t seen it. Mention that you are interested in meeting with your Member of Congress to talk about preventing the spread of malaria and try to schedule it while you have the person on the phone.
If you get voice mail: Leave a shortened version of the information in your email and provide your name and phone number. Speak clearly, and keep it brief. Be persistent (but always polite). It’s common to make several calls before successfully scheduling a meeting. Once you have scheduled your meeting, call a few days ahead to confirm it and ensure it’s still on the books. If you need help finding an appropriate contact, email info@NothingButNets.net and our team can provide assistance.
Before the meeting:
Do your research: Find out what issues are most important to your representatives. You can also find out what committees they are on and what issues they care about most by visiting your Member of Congress’ page at www.congress.gov.
Try to find areas of common ground on issues or personal background. These are great ways to start a conversation and foster a genuine connection. Did you go attend the same school? Did you live in the same neighborhood? You can find this on their website, or contact the Nothing But Nets team to help you.
Be prepared. Write out your speech and remember that practice makes perfect! It’s common for visitors to congressional offices to read pre-prepared remarks directly from a piece of paper. Run through what you plan to say during the meeting, especially if you are meeting with a group of people. Think of any questions you may want to ask, and practice saying any specific points you’d like to make sure are delivered well. Remember, your representatives want to hear from you, and they will expect you to lead the meeting.
Aim to dress as professionally as possible. Most Congressional offices require staff to dress in business casual clothing, but each office sets its own dress code, so this may vary. It’s always better to be too formal than too casual and, by taking the time to look professional you will automatically give the impression that you care about this experience and the issue.
Arrive early. Because your congressional office’s schedule is very busy with many commitments, they may be running slightly ahead or behind. As long as you have made an appointment, someone will be available, but you might have to wait a little bit, even if you arrived early or on time.
During the meeting:
Introduce yourself and be clear about the purpose of your meeting. You are there to discuss the importance of ending malaria deaths and to share your passion for the issue, in hopes that your Member of Congress will help facilitate positive change and generate Congressional support to send life-saving bed nets by fully funding the President’s Malaria Initiative and the Global Fund.
Acknowledge the office. Start your meeting by thanking the office for taking the time to meet with you, and for something that you think they have done well. Don’t forget to thank them!
Concisely explain your issue and make the “ask.” Ask your Member of Congress to support ending malaria deaths via full funding for the President’s Malaria Initiative and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Be clear and concise on what action you would like them to take. Go to http://www.nothingbutnets.net/new/act-now/ for current information on what this “ask” should be.
Support your “ask.” Explain why you care about ending malaria deaths. Share any personal stories you might have, and describe why being a Nothing But Nets supporter is important to you. Be creative and have fun! Congress is full of facts and figures, but you are there to share your passion.
Leave behind reference materials. Remember to leave your business card so that someone at the office can contact you with any follow-up questions. You can also provide handouts on Nothing But Nets, PMI, and the Global Fund.
After the meeting:
Send a thank you note. Reiterate the issues discussed and any points you thought you made particularly well. Thank the Member or staffer for his or her time. Following up is important because it builds your relationship with the member and their staff, shows that you care and sends a reminder that you will be watching his or her performance on this issue.
Don’t forget to tell Nothing But Nets how it went! We want to hear how well you did. Share your stories with us! firstname.lastname@example.org