It may seem like a daunting task to contact your Members of Congress but they want to hear from you. You can meet your Members in Washington, DC or at their district offices when they are home. Take the time to reach out to their offices to schedule a meeting. You can also meet with their legislative staff, who are there to relay your message to the Member.
Step 1) Identify your members and schedule a meeting
Identifying Your Members of Congress
- For the House of Representatives, go to https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
- For the Senate, go to https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
Schedule a Meeting in Washington, DC
If you are looking to schedule a meeting with your Representative or Senator in Washington, DC, you will first want to call the office and ask for the Health Legislative Assistant’s name and e-mail address. You can call using the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Once you have identified that person, e-mail them. Most Hill staff are very busy, so don’t be offended if you don’t hear back right away. If you do not hear back within a week, send a follow-up email to the request.
Schedule a Meeting in Your Home District
You don’t have to travel to Washington, DC to meet with your Representative or Senator. You will want to call the closest district office to you and again ask for the person who handles health issues. You can find the district office location and phone numbers on the Representative or Senator’s website.
- Sample email to request a meeting at a Washington, DC office (DOCX)
- Sample email to request a meeting at a home district office (DOCX)
Step 2) On the day of the visit
Prepare and be on time. Give yourself plenty of time to go through security, find your way to the office, and announce yourself to the receptionist. If you will be in a group, discuss with your colleagues in advance what you will be covering in the meeting. Be sure to select a primary spokesperson and determine who in the group will raise which points and requests.
Know your target.Typically, you will be meeting with Congressional staff who are the gatekeepers to their bosses, the Member of Congress. You will want to do your homework before your meeting. Be sure to look at the Member’s website and read through their bio and committee assignments. Be sure to know their party affiliation and if they are sitting on a Committee of Jurisdiction over PCORI reauthorization. These committees are the Senate Finance Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the House Ways and Means Committee. Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee also have an interest in PCORI.
Be brief and clear. Open the meeting by thanking the Member/staffer for his or her time. Introduce yourself and your connection to the district/state. If the Member has been helpful in the past or has taken action that you appreciate, be sure to say thank you. As you typically will have only 10–20 minutes for the entire meeting be succinct and allow time for the staffer to ask questions. Do not assume that the Member/staffer is knowledgeable about PCORI; be sure to provide some background information. Be sure to avoid using acronyms in your speech like “CER” – Comparative Effectiveness Research – unless you have first explained what it means. Explain that you want to provide your perspective on an issue of importance to you/your community/your organization. We have created a list of talking points that you can use to stay focused and on-message: FOPR Talking Points for Hill Visits (PDF)
Provide a personal story or real-life illustration. Personal stories are more easily remembered than statistics. Stories that illustrate the impact of PCORI-funded research on real people help to bring home to staffers why they and their boss should take action. You will have a better chance of success if you can connect with the issues and people they care about. In addition, briefly cite evidence or statistics particularly any local, regional, or state data. PCORI research awards by state are here – https://www.pcori.org/about-us/fact-sheets/state-state-portfolios-pcori-funded-projects.
Answer questions as best you can. If you do not know an answer, say that you will find out the answer and follow up with them. This is a good way to keep in touch and develop a relationship with the staffer.
Never disagree or argue, even if you encounter resistance or disagreement. It doesn’t pay to try to sway an entrenched position. Stay away from particularly partisan landmines. Stay positive and keep lines of communication open for the future. Staffers move around frequently and you never know where you might encounter them in the future.
Bring a short set of materials with you to leave behind. However, do not give the materials to the Member/staffer until the close of the meeting, or he/she may be distracted by the material and only listen to you with one ear. Early in the meeting indicate that you have materials to leave behind. Be sure to follow up and follow through on any promises of additional information.
Leave your contact information. Provide the staffer with your business card. If you do not have a business card to leave, make sure you give your home/personal contact information so the office can follow-up. Be sure to get a business card from the Member of Congress/staffer so that you know how to reach them. Be sure to ask the Member/staffer their preferred mode of communication (e.g. email or phone).
Step 3) Follow up after the meeting
Be sure to follow-up the meeting with a thank you note. An email is sufficient. In your note, reference the date of your meeting, who was in attendance, and the issues discussed. Be sure to express appreciation for the time and consideration extended to you during the meeting and reiterate your request that the Representative or Senator support PCORI reauthorization.
- Sample follow-up email (DOCX)