Meeting in-person with your Members of Congress is the first step towards building a relationship with them. There are many other tools you can use to engage with them both offline and online.
Like in-person meetings, these tools are ways we can hold our representatives accountable to the needs of our communities. They also reinforce the message of our in-person meeting, signaling to our representatives that their constituents care deeply about a specific issue.
We recommend that after you meet in-person with your representatives, you also engage them with at least two of these four tools, each time about the same issue.
We also recommend that you use these tools in conjunction with other people. This will make your action more impactful. For example, if you attend a town hall, go with a group and coordinate what issue(s) you’re going to talk about. If you’re tweeting at your representatives, tweet is coordination with others around the same time on the same issue.
Call Their Office
While it's unlikely that you'll be able to speak to your representatives over the phone, their staffers do record each call, especially if there is a high volume of calls about a certain issue. Each week, staffers give their Member of Congress a call log in order to keep them up-to-date on what constituents are calling about.
When you call, the front-desk person will typically pick up. You can ask to speak to the appropriate staffer depending on the issue you’re calling about. For example, if you want to discuss climate change, there will be a staffer in the office who handles that issue. You can also call to ask for the representative’s position on an issue.
Generally, you’ll want to call your Member of Congress’ DC office if you want to discuss an issue, but you can call their district office if you already know a staffer who works there.
Tip: Calling is like a meeting in-person - you DO NOT need to be an “expert” in the issue(s) you care about in order to have an impact.
If the staffer you’re on the phone with asks you a question that you do not have the answer to, tell him/her that you will find out the answer and get back to him/her. Ask for his/her email address so you can follow up.
Here is a sample script you can use when you call.
“Hello. My name is [name] and I’m your constituent from [city]. As a person of faith and [other relevant affinity], I support [issue]. I am calling to urge the [Senator/Representative] to support [issue].
Attend Town Halls
When Members of Congress are on recess, especially the August recess, they usually organize town halls. A town hall is an event at which a politician or public official answers questions from members of the public. Asking questions and sharing your story at a town hall is one of the most effective ways to inform your Members of Congress.
You can find out if your representatives have scheduled a town hall in your area by visiting www.townhallproject.com or check your representative’s website and social media for town hall announcements.
If your representatives have no town halls scheduled, call their district office(s) and let them know that you expect them to hold town holds or other public events with their constituents.
Invite Them To Your Community
Inviting your Members of Congress to come to your local community is often the best way to educate them about the needs of your community.
You can invite them to attend your faith community’s weekly worship service or attend a special event. For example, if your church is having a ceremony for the installation of its new solar panels or you’re having a lecture or workshop about an issue your church cares about.
Generally, you will want to send your invitation to the Member’s Scheduler in her/his district office. Keep the invitation to a page or less and try to get a prominent member of your community (for example, your pastor) to sign the letter. Each representative’s office has a preference for how requests should be submitted, so call the office first and ask how they would like to receive the invitation.
You can find a sample invitation and a sample follow up script here.
Engage With Them On Social Media
Almost all Members of Congress are on social media, and especially Twitter. Tweeting at your representatives is an effective way to get their attention. But before you tweet at them, you should follow their profiles. This gives your messages more credibility.
Tip: Some Members of Congress have two twitter profiles, a personal one and a Congressional one. Usually their name on their Congressional profile will include the prefix “Rep.” or “Congressman.” You will want to follow their Congressional profile.
Even though most representatives have a staffer managing their social media profiles, like with phone calls, that staffer will give the representative a “log” of what people are tweeting about and how often.
So when should you tweet at your representatives?
You can send them a thank you tweet after you meet in-person with them or their staffers.
You can comment on a vote they’ve made in Congress or a press statement they’ve released.
You can send them a message about a certain issue on an important occasion. For example, on Earth Day you can tweet at them about an environmental issue.
Tweeting in coordination with others is a great way to increase the likelihood of the representative noticing your tweets, and it doesn’t take many people – three or four different people tweeting at around the same time on the same issue is sometimes all you need, especially for Representatives who have fewer constituents that Senators.
If you do not have a twitter account, you can send your representatives a postcard with your message. If you do have a twitter account, you do not need to be a prolific tweeter for your account to have credibility. We do recommend that you include your Congressional district or state in your profile bio, so it’s clear to your representatives that you’re their constituent.
Tip: If you don’t want to create a Twitter profile, you can use this strategy on Facebook.
Download "The Advocate's Toolbox" to learn more about how to influence policy, get your message into the media, and build a relationship with your Members of Congress.