Meeting with a member of Congress or with congressional staff is an effective way to convey a message about a specific issue or legislative matter. Below are some suggestions for making the most of your visit.
Plan your visit carefully
Be clear about what it is you want to achieve. Determine in advance with whom you need to meet to achieve your purpose.
Make an appointment
When attempting to meet with a member of Congress, contact the appointment secretary or scheduler. Explain your purpose and whom you represent. It is easier for congressional staff to arrange a meeting if they know what you wish to discuss and your relationship to the area or interests represented by the member.
Arrive on time
When it is time to meet with a member, be punctual and be patient. If you are going to be late, call ahead and let them know. This thoughtful consideration of the member’s time will help you reschedule if need be.
It is not uncommon for a member of Congress to be late, or to have a meeting interrupted due to the member's crowded schedule. If interruptions do occur, be flexible. When the opportunity presents itself, continue your meeting with the member's staff.
Bring supporting materials
Whenever possible, bring to the meeting information and materials supporting your position (position papers). Members are required to take positions on many different issues. In some instances, a member may lack important details about the pros and cons of a particular matter. It is therefore helpful to share with the member information and examples that demonstrate clearly the impact or benefits associated with a particular issue or piece of legislation.
Try to limit your comments to one issue, and never raise more than three. You can always follow up on other issues in a letter or a later meeting.
Members of Congress want to represent the interests of their district or state. Whenever possible, demonstrate the connection between what you are requesting and the interests of the member's constituency.
When it is appropriate, remember to ask for a commitment.
Be prepared to answer questions or provide additional information if the member expresses interest or asks questions. Follow up the meeting with a thank-you letter that outlines the different points covered during the meeting, and send along any additional information and materials requested.
Source: Council on Foundations, http://www.cof.org