Tips for Writing to Your Congressperson, Sending an Email and Suggestions for a Personal Visit
Members of Congress prefer to hear from their constituents by email. House members and Senators usually have a direct, unpublished email address in the format: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Senators and Representatives may require constituents to use a web form and include an address and other information as part of the correspondence.
Your email should be in the same format as would be a printed letter:
Dear (title)(last name),
Start your message here.
Your Phone Number
Visiting Capitol Hill
Meeting with a member of Congress or congressional staff is an effective way to convey a message about a specific legislative issue. Below are some suggestions to consider when planning a visit to a congressional office.
Plan Your Visit Carefully
Determine which member or committee staff you need to meet with to achieve your purpose. Call AADE at 800.338.3633 for assistance.
Make an Appointment
Contact the appointment secretary/scheduler. Explain your purpose and whom you represent.
Be Prompt and Patient
Be punctual and patient. The Congressman or Congresswoman might be late or be interrupted due to their busy schedule, so be flexible.
Bring information and materials supporting your position to help inform members on the issue.
Demonstrate the connection between what you are requesting and the interests of the member’s constituency. If possible, describe how you or your group can be of assistance to him/her. If appropriate, ask for a commitment.
Be prepared to answer questions or provide additional information. Follow up with a thank you email that outlines the different points covered during the meeting and send any additional information and materials requested.
Visiting Members of Congress at Their Local Offices
Preparing for the Visit
- Make an appointment to visit when s/he is home on weekends or during congressional recesses. To find your member’s local district office, please visit the Senate web site or the House of Representatives web site.
- Make the appointment 2-3 weeks in advance.
- Be persistent – you may need to call several times to arrange the meeting.
- Make clear which issue(s) you want to discuss. This will ensure that you meet with the appropriate staff person.
- Get a sense of how long the meeting will last. This will help you prepare what points you want to convey in the limited time.
- Gather information. Learn about your legislators’ records and issues of interest. Become familiar with the opposition’s views and arguments on the issues to help you answer questions that may arise.
- Prepare materials, such as relevant fact sheets or a summarizing memo to leave with the legislator or staff.
- Work in coalition to underscore the broad appeal of your position. Agree on specific talking points and lobbying goals and designate a lead spokesperson for the meeting.
- Confirm the appointment the morning of or day before and arrive on time.
- Business attire is not necessary, but make sure you feel and look confident.
During the Visit
- Introduce yourself and start on a positive note. If s/he recently voted in support of a priority issue, thank her/him.
- Clearly state the position of whom you are representing, using facts and personal stories when possible. Let the legislator understand the personal ramifications or benefits resulting from their actions.
- If you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation.
- Legislators and staff are usually pressed for time. Focus on your main points and articulate your position clearly and concisely. Make sure you keep track of time and do not run over.
- Ask the legislator or staff to clarify what their position is on the issue.
- Ask the legislator to take specific actions such as sponsoring bills, voting for/against pending measures or meeting with branch or state boards.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so, but offer to get an answer.
- Bring extra copies of information to leave with the member of congress and/or their staff members. Provide your contact information and if possible, get contact information from the staffer.
- Don’t forget to thank the legislator and staff before you leave.
After the Visit
- Write or call to thank them for their time. Remind them of anything they may have agreed to do and send any additional information.
- Share the results of your meetings with the coalition. Share insights you have gained about legislator’s concerns and ask others to lobby.
- Find out when the legislators will be in your home district hosting town hall meetings or forums and organize a group to attend.
- Maintain communication with legislators and their staff through emails, calls and visits. Developing relationships with your legislators and their staff can be helpful for future visits.