How to Become a Member of Congress
At one point or another, I am sure many people have wondered how to become a member of Congress. Is it as simple as getting a few campaign donations and a few votes, or is there a bit more to it?

There are really three key aspects that need to be satisfied to become a member of Congress. The constitutional requirements, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing requirements and then the overarching personal qualities that voters are looking for from their leaders. Below I have summarized the items needed to identify how to become a member of Congress.


How to Become a Member of Congress: Requirements and Qualifications


Constitutional Requirements

These requirements are highlighted in Article 1, Section 2 of the US constitution:

  1. Be at least 25 years of age.
  2. Have been a citizen of the United States for at least seven years.
  3. Be (at the time of election) a resident of the state you are elected to represent.

If you can satisfy these three basic requirements, then you are eligible. But eligibility is the easy part.


FEC Filing Requirements

  1. Once an individual’s campaign activity exceeds $5,000 in either contributions or expenditures, they must register.
  2. Within fifteen days of that cap being hit, the candidate must file a Statement of Candidacy.
  3. Then the candidate must identify a principal campaign committee. Once that committee is formed, the candidate has 10 days to file a Statement of Organization.
  4. Lastly, once the committee is formed, it cannot accept contributions for the campaign until a Treasurer is established within the committee. The treasurer is the only one that may sign FEC reports and statements on behalf of the campaign.

Now that you have the FEC requirements satisfied, we need to examine what qualities voters are looking for. The requirements are just a part of how to become a member of congress.


Top 5 Qualities of Political Leaders

  1. Honesty
  2. Compassion
  3. Integrity
  4. Confidence
  5. Flexibility


As obvious as these may be, this is the core of what voters want from their elected officials. A recent Gallup poll showed that 53% of Americans want their leaders to compromise, opposed to 21% that wanted their leaders to stick to their principles. The ability to compromise reflects all of these five qualities.

If you follow the steps above, you can take the first step on your journey to start enacting the change you want to see in the world by becoming a member of Congress.

Brian Faust

Photo: Flickr

How to start a foundation? For those wanting to do some good in the world, one might consider starting a foundation to help the fight against global poverty. A foundation is a nonprofit that supports other charities and causes by funding their operating costs or by giving out grants. Donations are given to a foundation from various groups, individuals, and businesses. An anti-poverty foundation could, for instance, use donations to fund the projects of other humanitarian organizations or to give as scholarships to students who have bright ideas to change the world. Does creating a foundation seem like a rewarding challenge? Here is what’s important:

Decide on Private or Public: A private foundation usually receives funding from only one place, either a specific business, individual, or family. Inversely, public foundations must have their income source coming primarily from public donations. Public foundations generally have fewer governing restrictions.

Devote Time and Effort: A foundation takes just as much work as running a business, so there needs to be passion for it to stay afloat. There will be administrative duties and other menial tasks that seem to take away from helping the anti-poverty cause. For instance, when starting a foundation, one must create a set of bylaws that lays out the details of how the organization will be run. They should include things like conflict-of-interest policies and the board selection process. These duties can’t be avoided if one wants a sustainable, successful foundation. Stay focused on the cause!

Find the Right Board Members: When recruiting board members for a foundation, it is best to get talented people from a wide variety of groups and backgrounds who are passionate about ending global poverty. The reason for this is that it will expand the foundation’s support base to a much larger population than if the board all came from the same professional or social group. Having a diverse board will open up the foundation to much greater networking opportunities and a wider set of innovative ideas.

Be Responsible with Money: Make sure to keep clear bookkeeping records of how all money is spent in the foundation. Record all administrative costs, where each grant goes and how much is awarded, and any other expenses of the organization. One wouldn’t want the foundation shut down because it was careless with donor money.

Figure Out Funding Criteria: A foundation should set up clear expectations for what it wants from applicants in order for them to receive awards. Decide on important criteria such as grant application deadlines, the amount the foundation will award, and what kind of programs the foundation wants to fund. Be as specific as possible.

Once the foundation has all of these fundamentals down, it’s time to have fun and focus on the most important part- fundraising and awarding grants to support anti-poverty efforts. Good luck!

Caylee Pugh

Sources: Entrepreneur, Grant Space

Have you ever wondered how to run for Congress? If you want to influence politics outside of citizen activism or local government, then running for Congress is a great next-level option. Follow these 8 steps to Washington, D.C. and make a lasting impact on Congressional issues.

1. Build a resume – It is important to note that successful Congressional candidates do not have identical resumes. It is encouraged to have a wide variety of political background, and a lifetime of experience to show that you are an ideal candidate for the United States Congress. Previous work experience of most people in Congress involves being a lawyer, but the exceptions to this rule often include physicians and students with graduate degrees in political science.

2. Avoid mistakes – Seems impossible, right? This step is probably the most likely to deter the “average joe” from running. Many congressional leaders have cheated and lied before to get their seat. However, these mistakes are usually overlooked if they are in the distant past.

Just like in the movies, it is important to disclose anything and everything that might be incriminating politically or morally so supporters are not surprised later. Conversely, a flawless record can be your undoing in and of itself. If one minor mistake is made on a flawless record, it could mean the end of a career. Best to maintain a healthy, human balance with any potential mistakes.

3. Go to College and study the structure and role of Congress – A university degree is not listed as one of the qualifications for candidacy. However, your fellow candidates are almost guaranteed to have a degree. On top of that, a consistent education in government or political science will help any candidate in Congress.

4. Run for local government and start building a name for yourself – First, “test the waters.” Try and gauge how likely your are to win a candidacy. One classic path to the Congressional seat is starting at the local government level. An active role in local government will not only show a positive humble beginning and connection to your roots, it will impress voters. In addition, running for local office is great experience and gives the opportunity to test campaign strategies.

5. Start fundraising – It is extremely difficult to achieve any sort of political good without monetary help. In order to promote your own election, you are going to need to fundraise for advertising, traveling, and payroll for your committees. Choosing a good staff that subscribes to the ideals you want to fight for is crucial for a cohesive team. In addition, you may need an assistant or a speechwriter.

6. File ballot paperwork – Make sure you are a resident of the state in which you are applying for a Congressional seat and are at least 25 years old.

7. Campaign, campaign, campaign – Organize a campaign with your staff to travel as much as possible and meet as many voters as you can. Meeting voters personally is crucial for a successful winning campaign. Hire a professional marketing team to ensure that all of your campaign media is consistent with your campaign strategy.

8. Vote! – When the time comes, revel in the sight of your name on the ballot, and don’t forget to vote for yourself!

We often forget that we do live in a democracy. And although money and fame can get in the way, the information on running for congress is available to the public and you can and should run if you are able.

All registration forms to run for Congress are available for download from the Information Division, Federal Election Commission, Washington D.C., or by calling the toll free number, 1.800.424.9530.

– Kali Faulwetter
Source: WikiHow,FEC
Photo: Business Insider


letter to the editor

The Letter to the Editor section of newspapers is often read by thousands of people. However, even more important than its power as a public awareness tool, the Letter to the Editor section is carefully monitored by political leaders and their staffers. Reading letters to the editor helps political leaders gauge public opinion and determine what issues people are concerned about.



  1. What newspapers should I send my Letter to the Editor? Send your letters to local newspapers in your city and/or major newspapers in your state. It also never hurts to try sending it to major national newspapers and magazines (USA Today, Time, etc.).
  2. How do I find contact information? If you search, “the publications name” and “letters to the editor” you should be able to find an email address or form for submitting letters.


How to Write a Letter to the Editor

Before writing a letter, visit the newspaper’s website to get a feel for the main news stories of the day. Letters have a better chance of being published if they are tailored toward a major news story that was recently published (in the past 7 days). Overall, the letter is meant to spread awareness about global poverty reduction and its importance.

Options to incorporate in a letter to the editor:

  1. The shorter the better – Two or three paragraphs are sufficient. Most publications require submissions of between 150-200 words.
  2. Be sure to include your full name and contact information (email address, home address and phone number) –They won’t publish your letter unless they can call to verify that you are the author. Anonymous letters are not published.
  3. Whenever possible, mention one of your Members of Congress in the letter. They really do read these! This can either be thanking them (Rep. Snow’s leadership in combatting global poverty is commendable.) Or it can be encouraging them to act on a specific bill (I urge Senator Brown and Senator Reid to co-sponsor the Reach Every Mother and Child Act). 





Next Level Letter to the Editors

If you mention a member of Congress in your Letter to the Editor, they and their key staff will read it. How do we know? The topic has come up numerous times during lobbying meetings. In one incident, staffers for a Senator from New York spent 5 minutes discussing a letter to the editor that a Borgen Project volunteer wrote. Spoiler alert, they loved that the letter thanked the leader.




lobby congress

Outline of a Typical Lobbying Meeting

  1. Introduce yourself and any supporters you may bring with you.
  2. Overview of The Borgen Project and your role.
  3. Cover how addressing global poverty helps create jobs in the U.S. and improves national security.
  4. Speak directly about the bill(s) you are pushing, but don’t go too in-depth 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.
  5. Ask if there are any questions or concerns you can address regarding the bill(s), or anything else.
  6. Make the “Ask.” Let them know you would like them to cosponsor the bill.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!



Listen to Audio from Inside an Actual Lobbying Meeting

After the Meeting

  1. Within the group, send a Thank You email to the congressional staff who were present at the meeting about one week after the meeting. Include any relevant info (link to bill discussed, PDF of one-pager on bill). An example of a Thank You can be found on this page.
  2. Fill out the Lobbying Report Form
  3. Email your lobbying report form to [email protected] (and cc your manager). Ensure the subject of the email is ‘Lobbying Report Form’.


Lobbying Tips

  1. 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 you’re meeting with.
  2. 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. Be positive and professional.
  3. Use trigger words and tailor your message to the Member of Congress you are speaking with. For instance, when speaking with a Republican about the Global Poverty Act, focus on the connection between alleviating world poverty and improving U.S. national security as well as the wide-ranging economic benefits.
  4. 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 the group, 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.


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

call congress


Congressional offices tally every issue that people in their district contact them about. It’s not uncommon for a leader to support a poverty-reduction bill after as few as 7-10 people call in support of it. With a 30-second call you can instantly get a bill/issue viewed by your leader.


1. Find Your Leaders

Everyone living in the United States is served by 2 U.S. Senators and 1 U.S. Representative. Click the link below to find your leaders.


2. Add them to your phone

Add the phone numbers of your 3 members of Congress to your cellphone.


3. Call Weekly

A helpful receptionist, usually an intern, will answer the phone. All you have to say is, “I’m a Borgen Project supporter. Please protect funding for the International Affairs Budget.” Be sure to give them your name and zip code. Visit the legislation section to find key poverty-reduction bills to call in support of.


“I’m a Borgen Project supporter. Please protect the International Affairs Budget.”

…That’s all you need to say! An intern answering your call will add “protect the International Affairs Budget” to the call report that is viewed by the congressional leader and key staffers.



View a Call Report

This is an actual constituent report given to us by a Chief of Staff. Each week, your congressional leader receives a report like this tallying each issue and bill that voters called supporting and rejecting.




There are two types of drivers in this world. Those who waste away sitting in traffic and those who improve the world while sitting in traffic.

Turn your idle time into advocacy time. Put your three congressional leaders in your cellphone and call on a weekly basis in support of poverty-focused aid. Simply add your leaders to your cellphone and call when you’re bored or sitting in traffic. These calls rarely take longer than 30-seconds.





Calling Congress

100 Senators + 435 Representatives = Congress


Congress in Simple Terms…

  • You have three members of Congress who represent you in D.C. – two Senators and one Representative.
  • Senators serve 6-year terms in the Senate and there are two from each state.
  • Representatives serve 2-year terms in the House of Representatives. The number of representatives from each state is determined by population. For example, there are numerous Representatives from New York City while there is only one Representative serving the entire state of Alaska.
  • Representatives are frequently referred to as Congressmen, Congresswomen or Reps.


What Happens When You Call



Calling Congress FAQ’S


What is a Congressional Call? A 30-second call to your congressional leaders’ offices to express support for reducing global poverty or a specific bill that addresses global poverty issues.


Why is The Borgen Project so passionate about individuals calling their Congressional leaders? The Borgen Project has a rare level of access inside congressional offices and the organization has seen firsthand the impact these calls have. Political offices tally every single call they receive and a weekly summary of calls is given to the political leader. Anyone making a 30-second Congressional call can get the issues or a specific bill noticed by their Congressional leader.


Do I need to be an expert on politics or the issue to call? Nope. You’re a citizen telling the people elected to represent you back in Washington, D.C. that global poverty is important to you. The job of the person answering the phone (usually an intern) is simply to take down your information. You won’t be quizzed. At most, they might ask for your address or zipcode to verify that you live in the Congressional leaders district.


What do I say? “I’m a Borgen Project supporter and I would like to see funding for USAID increased.” That’s all there is to it. Also visit the legislation section to find specific poverty-reduction bills that you can call in favor of. Who do I call? Call the two U.S. Senators and one U.S. Representative who represent your area.


How often should I call? We recommend calling every week.


What tips do you have for getting in the habit of calling every week? Put your congressional leaders in your cellphone and pick a set day and day to do it each week (ie. Monday evening while sitting in traffic on the way home).


Can I call when the office is closed? Yes. Simply leave a leave a message on the general voicemail. The messages are checked each morning and your call will still be tallied in the memo.


Who’s eligible to call? Anyone who is a U.S. citizen and/or living in the United States can call congress.


Do you have to be 18 or older? No. We’ve seen 1st grade students call.