With JBANC’s Baltic Advocacy Week a few days away, now is the time to reach out to your Representative’s office. Please refer to this guide if you have any questions about how to set up a meeting.
The House of Representatives is in recess and in their home districts for much of August. Now is a perfect opportunity to meet with your members of Congress and discuss issues of importance to your community. Your legislators want to hear from you – their constituents – and the issues impacting the district, state, and country. Inviting your Representative to your community center for a town hall-style meeting would be ideal. If that’s not possible, consider arranging an in-district meeting at their local office.
Information about your members of Congress can be found here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members
Some things to consider before the meeting:
- What is the format of the meeting? Are you inviting them to your community center, or going to their local office?
- What issues are you presenting?
- How many individuals do you want to include in the meeting?
Each year, Congress takes district work periods when they work out of their local offices rather than on Capitol Hill. Members are also frequently at home in August, around holidays, and at the beginning and/or end of each week. Unfortunately, the House and Senate do not necessarily follow the same calendar.
Senate calendar: https://www.senate.gov/legislative/2018_schedule.htm
Requesting the meeting:
Contact the legislator’s local office, which can be found on his or her individual website at United States House of Representatives or United States Senate. Ask for the contact information of the state/district director and who schedules in-district meetings for the Member of Congress.
In your request, explain the purpose of your visit, identify all participants and suggest possible meeting dates. The more flexible you are about the date, the more likely it is that your meeting can be included on their schedule. If you don’t hear back from their staff, be persistent.
Here’s a sample appointment request for an in-district office meeting:
Dear Representative (or Senator) [last name]:
I am a constituent from (city/town). As a member of the [Estonian/Latvian/Lithuanian]-American community, I would like to request an opportunity to briefly meet with you in your [location] local district office on [dates and times]. I plan to discuss the following issues.
[Provide additional details about the issues here].
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this meeting request. I will contact your office soon to determine your availability. Should you or your staff have any questions in the meantime, I can be reached by phone at [your phone number] or by e-mail at [your e-mail address]. Thank you.
Other helpful tips:
Learn as much as you can about your legislators’ backgrounds and do your research. Look up their Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus or House Baltic Caucus membership status at www.jbanc.org/house-baltic-caucus. Follow them on Twitter and check their Facebook page. Determine their political ideology, the Congressional committees they serve on and personal facts such as hometown or background. This kind of information can provide insights into their worldview. Most of this information can be found through the individual’s congressional website.
You can access materials that you can share with your legislators here:
LINKS TO JBANC ISSUE BRIEFS: BAW Study Sheet v. 2
If others are joining you at the meeting, be sure to discuss the issues ahead of time and decide who will take the lead in presenting the issues. This is particularly important if there are a lot of first-time advocacy participants attending the meeting.
Determine who will compile, print, and bring leave-behind materials to be given to the office. Bring two copies, one for the legislator and one for their aide.
When it’s time for your meeting, be punctual. Members of Congress often have busy schedules and a late arrival may mean that you miss your appointment. You may also want to be flexible, since it isn’t uncommon for a lawmaker to be late or have the meeting interrupted by a crowded schedule.
Meetings usually last 15 minutes. Start the meeting by introducing all of the participants. Discuss your story, where you’re from and why you’re advocating. Share the materials on JBANC’s policy briefs. Walk the legislator some through the key issues you’re most passionate and knowledgeable about. You will probably only have time to discuss 2-3 issues maximum during the meeting. Remember to use personal stories to underscore a point about the issue. Make sure to leave time for you to hear the lawmaker’s thoughts on the subject.
Try not to antagonize a Member of Congress. Be straightforward but respectful when expressing your views. If the lawmaker doesn’t offer up their position on the issues, feel free to ask them what they think. Remember to be specific about what your ask is. For example, are you asking them to cosponsor a piece of legislation?
Keep in mind that we do not expect you to be the experts on the issues. Don’t feel like you need to know the answer to every question. If you are not sure what the answer to a question is if asked, consult our team and it will be a great opportunity to follow up with the congressional office.
Remember to follow up! Feel free to use the following format for a thank you letter:
—Thank you for meeting with me on [date and place]. I am pleased that we had the opportunity to discuss issues concerning the Baltic-American community.
—[Briefly go over what the issues and what asks you want the member to act on.]
—Again, thank you for meeting with me. Please contact me at [your phone number] or [your e-mail address] if I can be of any assistance or if I can provide any additional information. I will continue to monitor these issues and will keep in touch with your office as developments occur.
Points of contact:
Estonian: Karin Shuey firstname.lastname@example.org
Latvian: Erik Lazdins LazdinsE@live.com
Lithuanian: Vytas Aukstuolis email@example.com
JBANC: Karl Altau firstname.lastname@example.org