Connecting with your elected officials about AAUW issues in a face-to-face (or virtual!) meeting is a great way to develop a relationship and influence the positions they take on issues important to you.
Below are some helpful tips to prepare for your visit. Be sure to full out our report-back form after your visit so that we can highlight your efforts.
- First, contact your AAUW state or branch organization. They may have already reached out or have an event on the schedule. The more constituents you represent, the more likely you are to get their attention.
- Determine how you will meet. Constituents have often experienced obstacles to meeting with elected officials, whether it be an inability to travel to the national or state capital, conflicting schedules between the lawmaker’s office and the constituent’s life, or simply the at times overwhelming process of requesting and planning a meeting. Now, COVID-19 precautions pose further restrictions while many offices are still not hosting face-to-face meetings.
- For in-person: Check if Congress or your state legislature is in session or at home in your district, and then check if in-person is an option. (The U.S. Capitol remains closed to the public, but call your local offices for current guidance and follow your own discretion.)
- For virtual: The rise of online meeting capabilities alongside COVID-19 restrictions serves to open more opportunity to meet with lawmakers’ offices. This makes scheduling easier and accessible to more people than ever before.
- Fill out a request form or send a request email. Locate the scheduler’s email address on the legislator’s website or by calling the district office. Make you request both in writing by sending an e-mail to the scheduler, and follow up with a call. Make sure the scheduler knows that you are a constituent.
- The AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps example text:
We are members of the ____ Branch of the American Association of University Women Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps*. AAUW is a national nonprofit of more than 170,000 members and supporters across the country dedicated to advancing gender equity for women and girls through advocacy, education and research. We would like to schedule a meeting with Senator/Representative ___ or an appropriate member of the Senator/Representative’s staff to discuss the concerns of AAUW members, your constituents, across the country on key issues affecting women and girls.
*You would put “AAUW of [state or branch]” here.
- Be specific. The most effective and efficient way of securing an appointment is to be detailed about the purpose of the meeting — which issue you want to discuss, a bill number if you are meeting about legislation, and that you are an AAUW member.
- Who will attend the meeting? You can meet alone with the official or bring a group of AAUW members or a coalition of people who represent other interested groups. Consider bringing people who represent the constituencies that are affected by the issue you are discussing.
- Do your research. Learn about your elected officials’ voting record and statements on AAUW issues. Become familiar with the views and arguments on both sides of the issue. Arm yourself with research, polling data, news clips, and op-eds to support your position.
- Have talking points. Make your position clear and keep the meeting focused.
- Make a clear ask. Are you asking for the legislator to vote for or against a bill? Co-sponsor a measure? Sign a pledge? If your meeting consists of a group of AAUW members, decide beforehand who will present the talking points and who will make the ask.
- Bring materials. Prepare materials to leave with the elected official or staff. AAUW Quick Facts, the Public Policy Priorities, and research reports are good examples.
- Alert the media. If you recruit a large group of people, local media might be interested in covering your visit.
- One of the best times to plan for an in-district meeting is during a Senate or House recess. This time is designated for legislators to meet with their constituents in their home states or districts. They call these recesses “district work weeks” for a reason!
- Plan a speaking order. Whether in person or meeting virtually, it is important to know who is speaking in which strategic order so all are heard. When meeting online, however, this is particularly critical to ensure a smooth meeting.
- Take pictures outside of the office or during the meeting with the elected official if allowed. You can share the pictures on social media and send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Personalize your comments and provide local context — elected officials often prioritize issues that directly affect their constituents. Personal stories and local examples help illustrate why your issue is important.
- The legislator’s response won’t always be clear, so listen carefully. What is the person saying about the issue? What questions or concerns do they have that might be answered? Pay attention to the direct and indirect statements of support or opposition.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question your legislator asks, say you’ll find out and then follow up. Contact our national office to assist with answering these questions.
- Right after the meeting, compare notes with everyone in your group to confirm what the elected official committed to do.
- Send a personal thank-you letter to your elected official. Remind the official of anything he or she may have agreed to do.
- Follow up in a timely fashion with any requested materials and information.
- Share the results of your meetings with your branch, your state public policy chair, and with AAUW public policy staff. You can file your report online.
Follow these tips to make the most of a shorter visit:
- Again, first remember to check if you are able to stop by. (The U.S. Capitol remains closed to the public, but call your local offices for current guidance.)
- You’ll still want to research the official’s position on the issue and prepare your talking points, your ask, and materials to leave behind with someone.
- After entering the office, identify yourself to the front desk as an AAUW member and constituent.
- Ask to speak with a staff member who handles the issue you want to discuss. If that person is unavailable, ask if there is someone else you can meet with to speak about the issue. Be flexible, as local legislative offices are usually short-staffed.
- Leave a copy of your materials with the staff member. If no one is available to speak with you, leave a note, your contact information, and the materials you brought.
- As always, remember to share the results of your drop-by visit with your branch, your state public policy chair, and AAUW staff. You can file your report online.
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