Why Meet In-District?
To be an effective Youth Caucus of America advocate, nothing is more important than establishing personal relationships with members of Congress. Conversely, to a Member of Congress, there is nothing more valuable than input and support from constituents (voters!). Meeting with policymakers and/or their staff is extremely valuable to help advance the Youth Caucus of America agenda and provide you with the opportunity to develop key contacts with your legislators.
All U.S. Representatives and Senators have one or more offices in their home district or state for constituent services, which serve as a readily accessible meeting point during in-district work periods.
Typical dates of Congressional in-district work periods include:
Presidents’ Day (mid-February)
Easter/Passover (March or April)
Memorial Day (late May)
Independence Day (week of July 4th)
Summer (August to Labor Day)
Target adjournment (early October)
If Congress has not officially adjourned in early October, additional work periods include:
Columbus Day (October)
Veterans Day (November)
Congress also typically adjourns for the month of December and reconvenes in the New Year.
Scheduling Your Meeting
- Do your research. Every office is different, so be sure to identify your Representative’s and Senators’ websites, which offer in-district office contact information in addition to preferred scheduling procedures.
- Get to know the scheduler/staff. To schedule a meeting, contact the office that is most convenient for you. Provide the office with your name and contact information (including congressional district), a brief update on which issue(s) you are interested in discussing, notify them that you are a constituent, and inform them if you have had any previous contact with the office.
- Follow-up and confirm. Contact the scheduler and let them know you are following up on a meeting request. Be brief but specific. i.e. My name is Coby Owens. I am a constituent of Rep./Sen. _____ and I am following up on a meeting request sent on July 30, 2017 to discuss key issues. Once scheduled, confirming your meeting details and time is equally as important.
- Be flexible. Members of Congress maintain extremely busy schedules, especially at home/in-district. Meeting details, locations, times, and durations will vary. Scheduling a meeting time and location convenient for the Member can help alleviate last minute scheduling changes.
Tips for Successful Meetings
- Establishing yourself as a YCA advocate is crucial to making your voice heard. More specifically, regularly engaging with members of Congress and their staff, and serving as a trusted resource on issues of importance to young Americans across the nation, is essential. To that point, many lawmakers, particularly your elected officials, will look to you for guidance on complicated issues.
Utilizing the following tips can help lay the groundwork to develop a mutually beneficial relationship between you and your elected officials:
- Get to know your member of Congress. Understanding your Representative or Senators background, key committee assignments, voting history, and/or relevant leadership roles or caucuses they sit on will help you establish a level of respect within an office. Visiting their website, signing up for e-newsletters or updates, and keeping up with issues they support are great ways to stay informed.
- “Friend” or “Follow” your elected officials. In today’s social media driven sphere, politicians rely on Facebook, Twitter and other vehicles as easy, effective platforms to get their message across to constituents… and vice versa. Because social media is set up to engage an audience, you too can educate, praise, or respond to your elected official.
- Know before you go. Similar to getting to know your congressperson, knowing your issue(s) and recognizing their position(s) on said matters is critical to framing your ask. Honing in on one or two key issues per visit and framing them in the context of your legislator’s viewpoint (examples of how x initiative will help or hurt you, your patients, or constituents) will help ensure your request is clear and that your representative/senator, or their staff, are more likely to follow-up and take action. Regularly browse youthcaucusamerica.org, to learn more about advocacy and public policy issues that have the potential to affect young Americans and their futures across the country.
- Make the ask. Help policymakers help you! This step can make or break the future of your relationship with an office. Being attentive and respectful, but confidently reinforcing your ask goes a long way in helping hold an office accountable. Your ask should be clear and may include the following: sponsoring or cosponsoring a bill, extending a follow-up meeting, encouraging your contact to stay in touch and consider you a resource when it comes to specific issues, etc.
- Provide feedback. Your feedback and questions are important to us. In addition to completing a meeting evaluation form, the YCA wants to know the following:
Was the office responsive?
Did the member of Congress agree to take action?
Did staff request any additional information?
Do you plan to schedule a follow-up meeting?
Anything else you care to share.
Meeting Dos and Don’ts
- Be confident. Do your homework and stay on message.
- Be prepared. Bring relevant supplemental materials.
- Photo document your visit, when appropriate.
- Make the ask…and connect it back to the legislator and his/her constituents.
Remain extremely flexible. If it’s necessary to hold a five minute meeting in the hallway of the Rayburn House Office Building or your state capitol, so be it.
- Be personal. Tell your story.
- Offer to help. Serving as a trusted resource for your legislator is a great way to be invited back.
Acknowledge if/when you need to obtain more information. There is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know but can find out” vs. providing inaccurate data or misrepresenting an issue.
- Get to know the scheduler/staff. Do not underestimate the power (or age) of the policy staff. These individuals are key advisors to their bosses and often times educate them with regards to specific votes.
Follow-up and through. Circle back with offices, ideally no later than one week after your initial meeting, to thank them and tie up any loose ends. If you offered to provide additional information, consider doing that within a day or two of your meeting.
Inform YCA staff that you are meeting with an office so they can provide the background information, resources and tools you need for a successful meeting.
- Be tardy. Hill offices are very small, busy entities so arriving on time (no more than five minutes prior to your meeting time) – vs. too early/late – is encouraged.
- Discuss political contributions. It is illegal to disclose political activity or campaign/PAC contributions when discussing policy matters, especially inside a government office or building. Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations prohibit tying a specific ask to a political contribution. Attending a local fundraiser or event is a great opportunity to present a check, thank a member of Congress for their leadership, and network with other policy professionals.
- Become emotional. Be proactive and anticipate long lines getting into the building, the likelihood of earlier meetings running late, potential for the Member/staff to disagree with your position, etc. If you are prepared for the chaos that is Congress, you will remain the calm, cool, collected expert in the room.
- Expect the Member. Staff can be just, if not more, effective in championing your cause.
Be partisan. You are entitled to your personal political views, but when representing the YCA, we are the youth voice at the federal, state and local levels a.k.a. bipartisan.
- Believe someone else is your advocate. The person who can tell your story the best is yourself. The time is now to speak up and take action
Sample Meeting/Event Requests
Sample Meeting Request
The Honorable XX
[District Office address]
Dear Senator/Representative XX,
As a constituent, I am writing to request an appointment with [Senator/ Representative XX] in [name of town where nearest district office is] on [insert date and times available] to discuss [issue(s)].
Please contact me to let me know when the [Senator/Representative] or the relevant staff member might be available to meet. I will follow up with you in the next week by phone. Thank you for considering my request.
The Honorable XX
[District Office address]
Dear Senator/Representative XX,
My name is Coby Owens, and I am a constituent in your district.
I would like to meet with you in your district office to discuss pending federal legislation that will affect our district and nation. Specifically, I would like to discuss this federal legislation and the potential impact it will have on myself and young Americans.
Please feel free to contact me to schedule an appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 555-555-5555. Thank you in advance for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Chief Executive Officer
Youth Caucus of America
Sample Event Request
The Honorable XX
[United States Senate/U.S. House of Representatives]
[DC Office address]
Dear [Rep/Senator Name],
I am writing to invite you to a public forum we are hosting to educate constituents in the [REGION] area about the _________. As a leader in supporting efforts to _____, I would be honored to have you attend and speak at this event.
The public forum will take place on [DAY], [DATE] at [TIME] at [LOCATION]. I would be happy to have you welcome the crowd and speak about the importance ______ in the [REGION] area and throughout [STATE]. Other speakers at the forum will include: [LIST FORUM SPEAKERS].
Please call me with any questions or comments you may have about this event at [xxx-xxx-xxxx or EMAIL]. I will call your office next week to follow up and provide you with more information.
Thank you again for your support. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.