Advocate: Meet with Your Member of Congress

Making Contact with your member of Congress is an important part of being an effective and strong advocate for the United Nations. Policy enacted by Congress greatly impacts the UN’s ability to address the most pressing issues and crises across the globe. As a constituent, you have the power to inform your elected official on the importance of the UN and the reasons they should support it.

There are multiple channels you can use to contact your Member of Congress and advocate for the issues you care about. Each method has its specific benefits and purpose. As you plan your advocacy, you should think about the best way to accomplish your goal based on your time and resources.

Meeting in-person with your member of Congress or their staff is one of the best ways to effectively communicate and advocate for the United Nations. In-person meetings make your advocacy more personal and allows you to build a relationship with the office staff which can help your future advocacy. Setting up and attending a meeting with your member of Congress can seem overwhelming and intimidating but remember, your elected officials want to hear from their constituents and learn what issues are important to them. Most importantly, UNA-USA is here to support you with guidance and resources that will help you to execute your meeting successfully.

Getting Started:

  • Who and Where: Not sure who your member of Congress is or the best place to meet with them? Not a problem. You can find out by visiting www.house.gov and www.senate.gov. Each MOC has a Washington DC and district/state office and you can set up meetings in either location.
  • Reach out to UNA-USA: We want to know about your advocacy efforts and help make the process as simple as possible. Contact us at genun@unausa.org and we will provide you with helpful tips and information such as talking points and suggestions for best times to meet with your MOC.

Setting Up Your Meeting:

  • Contact the Scheduler: The best way to set up a meeting is to go through the process set up by each congressional office. You can check on the member’s website for instructions to request a meeting or can call the office directly and ask the receptionist how to set up a constituent meeting. Once you know how to make a request, be ready to provide the following information:
    • Who you are and where you are from
    • Issue you would like to address during the meeting
    • Desire to meet with the Congressperson or a relevant staffer
    • Contact information- phone number and email
  • Following Up: If you don’t hear back after several days, you can reach out again by email or phone. Remember to be polite and refer to your first communication and reasons for wanting to meet with the member.
  • Confirm the meeting: Once your meeting has been scheduled, call a few days before the meeting to confirm that the appointment is still on the books.

Before the Meeting:

  • Be Prepared: Take some time before the meeting to review your talking points and “ask” to the member. You might be nervous once in the meeting so it is always good to feel comfortable with what you are going to say and to have some prepared questions to ask your member.
  • Arrive Early: Congressional offices are busy places and it is important to respect their time and commitments. Make sure to arrive early and be prepared to wait. But don’t worry, if your meeting is confirmed it will take place!

During the Meeting:

  • Follow an agenda: The length of meetings vary depending on the member or staffer’s schedule. It’s important to keep to an agenda so you are sure to touch all the points you came to address. The structure of your meeting should look similar to this:
    • Introduce yourself and UNA-USA: Once the meeting starts remember to introduce yourself, tell them where you are from, your affiliation with UNA-USA, and the reason you are there.
    • Make it personal: You may have an interesting first-person account of how the UN has positively affected your life or the life of someone you know. Share this in your meeting.
    • Present your “ask”: Whenever you meet with your MOC, you should always have one clear call to action. When you contact UNA-USA, they will provide you with a call to action or you can use these talking points (hyperlink to Micah’s work) to construct your own. Remember, you don’t want to dilute your message with multiple topics or requests. Stick to the primary issue you came to address.
    • Before you leave: At the end of the meeting, be sure to thank the Congressperson or staffer for their time and request a picture! Photos of you meeting with your Congressperson or their staff are great to have and even better to share via email or social media.

After the Meeting:

  • ·Send a thank you email: Send a brief email to the office you met with thanking them for their time and letting them know to contact you if they have any questions.
  • ·Follow up with UNA-USA: We want to know how the meeting went and if there are any follow- up actions we can help you with. Email genun@unausa.org to provide an update.

Things Not to Do When Meeting with your Member of Congress

  1. Do not make up an answer; it’s okay not to know. If you find yourself in your meeting and you are not sure of an answer to a question, simply let the person know that you will follow up with an answer.
  2. Do not mention your political party/who you voted for. Successful advocacy means engaging with members of all political parties. Never reveal your party affiliation or discuss who you voted for. This can risk alienating a Congressional office and weaken the effectiveness of your meeting.
  3. Do not record audio or video during your meeting. Congressional offices typically do not want their meetings with constituents videotaped or recorded.