Lobbying: It’s Easy as 1,2,3…
- Locate your leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. You have 3 people in Washington D.C. whose job is to represent your interests at the national level (2 Senators and 1 Representative).
- Go to your Senators or Representative’s website and fill out a request for meeting (which tends to be under the “Contact” section of their page).
- Show up for the meeting and discuss with your Representative, Senator or Staffer the issues surrounding global poverty that matter to you.
How to Set Up Meetings with Congress and their Staff:
- Send a meeting request. Most Congressional offices prefer that you submit a meeting request online via their website. However, if their site doesn’t specify, call the office to find out their preferred method. Request a meeting at a district office near you unless you live near Washington, D.C.
- Call your leader’s D.C. office the next day. Ask to speak with the scheduler and confirm that they received your meeting requests. Be friendly and smile over the phone!
- Work four paths when trying to get a meeting with your Congressional office.
- Request meetings directly with the leader. Most of your correspondence will be with their scheduler.
- Reach out to the District Director. They sometimes go by other titles but this is the person in charge of running the district (in-state) office. All leaders have a D.C. office and at least one district office.
- Most likely, there is a staffer in the district office assigned to meet with community groups. Call the district office to determine who that person is and reach out directly to them.
- Every Congressional Leader has a Foreign Policy LA (Legislative Assistance) who serves as their Foreign Policy Advisor. They are based in D.C., but you can reach out to them directly and ask for a phone meeting.
Meeting with Members of Congress and/or their Staffers:
- Documents for the Meeting:
- Economic Benefits (Infographic)
- Business Leaders’ Letter
- Military Leaders’ Letter
- Former Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff letter to Congress about the importance of the International Affairs Budget
- Protecting the International Affairs Budget
- Bill Summaries (You can present up to two pieces of legislation during your meeting)
- What to Wear: Look good… Damn good. Business attire. Clean cut. You’re representing 1.2 billion people in these meetings.
Outline of a Typical Lobbying Meeting:
- Introduce yourself and any supporters you may bring with you.
- Overview of The Borgen Project and your role.
- Cover how addressing global poverty helps create jobs in the U.S. and improves national security.
- Speak directly about the bill(s) you are pushing, but don’t get crazy with details. Introduce the bill itself, state its current status (including how many people are currently cosponsoring it), and convey the importance of this particular bill to the constituents of the district and/or state.
- Ask if there are any questions or concerns you can address regarding the bill(s), or anything else.
- Make the “Ask.” Let them know you would like them to cosponsor the bill.
- Thank the member of Congress or staffer for their time and consideration and ask them for their business card so that you can follow-up with them within the next week or so.
- Optional: Take a photo with the member of Congress or with the staffer you meet with. You can also take a photo of yourself outside the building or outside of the office!
After the Meeting
- Send a Thank You email to the congressional staff who were present at the meeting about one week after your meeting. Include any relevant info (link to bill discussed, PDF of one-pager on bill). You can use the template on this page.
- Fill out the Lobbying Report Form
- Take a photo of the business card you received and email it with your lobbying report form to [email protected] (and your manager). Ensure the subject of the email is ‘Lobbying Report Form’.
- Lobbying is simply having a conversation with a person and communicating what you would like to see happen. Don’t spend too much time thinking about the do’s and don’ts. Go to the meeting, try to find common ground, and form a connection with the person.
- Likeability is everything. If you walk out of the room with them liking you, then they will be more likely to give your issue more attention and have you back for more meetings.
- Use trigger words and tailor your message to the member of Congress you are speaking with. When speaking with a Republican about the Global Poverty Act, for instance, focus on the connection between alleviating world poverty and improving United States national security as well as the wide-ranging economic benefits.
- Meet Their Needs. When you’re in the meeting, keep in mind that…
The staffer has to determine if they should ask their boss to cosponsor the bill. The staffer probably won’t read the bill, but they might write an overview and briefly discuss the bill. From you, the staffer needs to hear talking points that the leader will be responsive to (economic reasons for addressing poverty, national security reasons, etc.).
The political leader has to return to their congressional district and explain to voters why they’re sending money overseas. From you, they need to hear talking points that they can relay to voters (improves the economy, etc.). This is where it’s really important that you generate lots of calls and emails to their office regarding the bill. Political leaders frequently justify their vote on unpopular bills by saying they had lots of people contact them in support of it.
For D.C. Meetings
How to Find Out Who is the Chief of Staff, Foreign Policy LA, Scheduler, etc.
You can call the office and ask (make sure you get the exact spelling) or…
- Find staff here: http://capwiz.com/results/directory/congdir.tt
- Select the leader’s name.
- Select the staff tab.
- From here, you can see the Scheduler, Legislative Director and Foreign Policy LA.
How to Determine a Staffer’s Email Address? Many offices won’t give out staffers email addresses over the phone, so but this simple formula usually works.
House of Representatives:
(staffer first name).(staffer last name)@mail.house.gov
(staffer first name)_(staffer last name)@(senator last name).senate.gov
* If that doesn’t work try the Senators full name: @harleydavidson.senate.gov
A survey of congressional staffers revealed that meetings with constituents have more influence over leaders than meetings with corporate lobbyists.
“Citizens who participate in the democratic process are overwhelmingly the most influential component in any lawmaker’s decision-making process.”
– Bradford Fitch, Former Congressional Staffer