Taking Political Action
Meeting With Your Members of Congress
Page One: Scheduling Your Meeting
The tips below provide some guidance for meeting with your elected representatives. The information included here forms a main part of IFPB's Grassroots Advocacy Training materials. Click here for more information on our Grassroots Advocacy Training program.
At the end of this section are further resources for use at your meetings, including the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s Congressional Report Card which grades each senator and congressperson on his or her voting record in regard to peace in Israel/Palestine. Click here to view these links and resources.
The guidelines included in this section are separated into two parts. The first step is scheduling your congressional meeting. Concrete steps for scheduling your meeting are included below. The second section provides tips on what to do before, during and after your meeting. Click here to skip directly to this information.
How to Set Up Your Congressional Visit
IMPORTANT: The key to scheduling a meeting with your congressional representatives or their staff is persistence. You may have to make numerous calls to renew your request and nail down a meeting.
It helps to be well prepared for your approach. You can prepare yourself by studying the relevant materials and information.
Congressional Report Card: The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation provides a congressional report card which details your member of congress' voting record and statements on Israel/Palestine. Click here to download the US Campaign's Congressional Report Card.
Meeting Request: Most congressional offices prefer meeting requests to be faxed or emailed. IFPB put together a template meeting request for our 2009 Grassroots Advocacy Training. You can copy and paste this template meeting request and adapt it for your own purposes. Click here to copy and paste this template.
Background Information for Setting Up Your Meeting
To schedule a meeting with a congressional office it is ideal to start calling 4-6 weeks before your requested visit. Appointments can be scheduled with shorter notice and, although it is best to set an appointment rather than just showing up at the office, if you are unable to schedule an appointment, you may still show up (see below for more information on that option).
Before you call, be prepared to discuss your issue. The staffer you talk to may ask you questions about your subject. If you have a good command of your topic and know what you want to meet about, it will be easier to get the attention needed.
If you are persistent, you can get a meeting with your representative. Often, however, you will end up with meet with a congressional staffer (the person responsible for tracking a specific issue and advising the congressperson on how to vote).
Meetings with congressional staffers can be almost as important as meeting with the member of Congress, so don't be discouraged if this is your outcome. Many times, the staffer's will have significant influence on the position of the congressional representative whom he/she advises. For most issues relating to Israel/Palestine, you will want to meet with the Legislative Aide on Foreign Policy or Human Rights issues. Usually that person will be based in Washington DC, but there will also be an aide in the local District Office who can meet with you.
You have the option of meeting with your legislators in either local District Office or Washington, DC offices. If you want to meet your representatives locally, ask for appointments during congressional recess periods (around holidays) when your member is home in your district. When making appointments at the Washington office, note that many members may not be in their offices on Mondays or Fridays. If you are making appointments on these days, you may end up speaking with staffers.
You can often make plans to visit the Washington office through the local office. Otherwise, contact the national office and ask the office scheduler to arrange the meeting.
How to Make Your Appointment
You can also call the Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121. Search your local listings or representatives' websites for the phone numbers of local District Offices.
You may also choose to fax a meeting request before you call. You should do this the same day, or the day before, you call. Click here for a sample meeting request.
When calling to make an appointment, follow this process:
- Introduce yourself as a constituent. Tell the person answering that you are interested in setting up a meeting with the member in order to discuss how you are being represented.
- Explain the issue you would like to discuss. Request to meet with the congressional representative.
- If someone in your group knows the congressional member personally or professionally, make sure that the scheduler is aware of the relationship.
- If the member is not available, ask what hours of the day she will be available. Request a meeting at that time.
- If there is no chance of meeting with your member, let the office determine who it would be best for you to meet with (usually this will be Foreign Policy and/or Human Rights Staff).
- Be flexible and accommodating of your member's (or staff person's) schedule
- Obtaining a meeting may be a long and difficult process. Staffers may give you the run-around. If you need to meet with your representative (instead of a staffer), be polite but persistent. Don't give up. If you are polite and persistent, it often does result in a meeting.
- Make sure you get the name, title and email address of the person who scheduled your appointment and the staffer you are scheduled to meet with.
- Immediately after you schedule a meeting, send a confirmation letter via email and fax that includes a list of those who will attend the meeting (you can always add more names later if your group gets bigger).
- Several days before the meeting, call the member's office to confirm your appointment.
- Call again the day of your meeting. If you have only scheduled a meeting with a staffer ask again if the member might be available to join your meeting (it doesn't hurt to keep trying and schedules often change the day of).
Showing Up: If you are unable to set up a meeting ahead of time, you may show up at the office.
If doing this, ask for "just a moment of the foreign policy aide's time." Let them know you are from the District and are in Washington temporarily.
If the aide is unavailable, leave a note or information about why you came to visit and what you would like to discuss.
Follow up with a phone call and/or email and request to meet with Foreign Policy staff at the District Office when you get home.
When the Meeting is Scheduled
Scheduling your meeting is only the first step. For more information on meetings with members of congress, including step-by-step tips on what to do before, during, and after the meeting click here.
Resources for Working with Congress
- The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
The US Campaign has a number of resources available for congressional action, including distributing periodic Action Alerts. As a member organization of the Campaign, IFPB will forward Alerts directly to delegates. However the Campaign has a number of other resources available: Check out your representatives’ voting records at the Congressional Report Card and find Background Resources here.
- The Institute for Middle East Understanding
IMEU mainly provides journalists and editors with information on Palestine and Palestinians. Their Background Briefings can be used as fact sheets or research for meetings with Congressional representatives.
- The American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights
AAPER is a new initiative formed to provide an institution for those millions of Americans who believe in equality in Israel and Palestine, peace in the Middle East and an equitable U.S. policy toward Palestine that upholds the interests and ideals of the American people. Their site includes a number of resources as well as tips for working with congress.
- A number of groups send out periodic Action Alerts, including:
- US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation - Sign up for Action Alerts
- Jewish Voice for Peace - Sign up for Action Alerts
- J-Street - Sign up for Action Alerts
- Americans for Peace Now - Sign up for Action Alerts
- Churches for Middle East Peace - Sign up for Action Alerts
- Amnesty International - Sign up for Action Alerts on Israel/Palestine