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.
- 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 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:
- Review the 2017 Talking Points and 2017 Congressional Briefing Book: Use the talking points and briefing book to update yourself on the issues you’ll be discussing. These meetings should be brief – no more than 15-20 minutes. You probably won’t be able to talk about all the UN issues you care about, but that’s ok! At the end of the meeting, the staff or Member should remember one thing: I have a constituent that cares about the UN and wants us to fully pay our UN dues.
- Decide who is speaking and when: The individual who lives in the Members’ district/state should be the person that speaks first. If more than one person falls into this category, discuss among your group who might be a good candidate to get the conversation started. From there, decide the order in which members of your group should speak.
- Know your elected officials: Do some quick online research to learn more about your Members of Congress -- including what committees they serve on and past remarks they’ve made about the UN. In addition, checking their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts are helpful ways to see what issues are most recently on their minds.
During the Meeting:
- Arrive early…and remember to have fun! Punctuality is important, but so is having fun! A meeting with your Member of Congress or his/her staff is a unique and exciting opportunity to share your passions with your elected officials. Just please be on time.
- Introduce yourself: It’s a simple rule, but an important one. When you meet the Congressperson or staff member, introduce yourself, providing your name and what chapter you belong to.
- Talk about what your chapter does: Members of Congress are interested in what goes on in their districts/states. Let them know there’s a robust constituency of UN supporters where they live.
- Tell them why you care – and if you have a personal UN story: You may have an interesting first-person account of how the UN has positively affected your life or the life of someone you know. Feel free to share this in your meeting.
- Make the ask: “It matters now more than ever that we keep our seat at the UN table and fully fund our UN dues – if we forfeit our seat, we forfeit our influence.” At the end of the meeting, the staffer or Member should remember at least one thing: I have a constituent that supports the UN.
- Take a photo to commemorate your visit: Pictures with a Member of Congress or their staff are a great way to remember your visit. You can post them on Twitter or Facebook after the meeting, allowing you to publicly thank the office for visiting with you. Please ask before taking any photos.
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 email@example.com to provide an update.
Things Not to Do:
- Don’t mention your party affiliation or who you did/didn’t vote for: UNA-USA does not support or oppose political candidates for any office, nor do we express positions on specific political parties. Never reveal your party affiliation or discuss who you did or didn’t vote for, as this can risk alienating a Congressional office and weaken the effectiveness of your meeting.
- Don’t make up an answer; it’s okay not to know: If you find yourself in your meeting and you’re not sure of an answer to a question, it’s okay. Just let the person know that either you or someone from the UNA-USA National Office will get back to them with an answer to their question shortly.
- Don’t record audio or video during your meeting: Congressional offices typically do not want their meetings with constituents videotaped or recorded. Avoid negatively affecting your meeting before it starts by not bringing audio or video recorders.
Picking up the phone and calling your member of congress is a quick and effective way to share your point of view on an issue. Most importantly, office staff keep track of the number of calls they receive on a specific issue so every call really counts. When calling a congressional office, it is good to keep the following in mind:
- Be sure to call your MOC’s Washington, DC office, as the staff there handles Federal legislation. You can find out the telephone number for the offices by visiting www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.
- Before calling, be prepared with a short script that covers the following pieces of information:
- Who you are and where you are from
- Why you are calling and what you would like your member of Congress to do
- Share a brief personal story related to your message
- Thank the staffer for their time
- You can find talking points and statistics that could be helpful materials during your call here.
- When you call, make sure you are talking to the right person. You can briefly mention that you would like to share an opinion on foreign policy and the United Nations.
Contacting your member of Congress is an important part of being a strong and effective 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.
UNA-USA provides action items on this website in addition to alerts via email to let you know when steps need to be taken to show support for legislation or treaties. The advocacy alert system will allow you to send an email to your Members of Congress at the click of a button, showing them that their constituents care about the UN.
A more personal way to contact your member of congress is through a written letter. Letters received in the mail are still an effective tool for advocacy, particularly when it comes from a group of constituents. You can customize the below template letter to share your message of support for the UN:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) Senate or House Office Building
United States Senate or United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510
Recent bipartisan polling by the Better World Campaign and the United Nations Foundation shows that the majority of Americans -- across party lines -- view the UN as a vital global forum for diplomacy, discussion, and action to resolve the most pressing issues confronting the world.
The United States Senate has stood with approximately 8 in 10 American voters who say it is important for the U.S. to maintain an active role in the UN, and 67 percent of those who favor the U.S. paying its dues to the UN on time and in full. I ask you to support the following BWC figures for the UN budget in 2018.
$2.39 billion within the Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) account and $475 million within Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) for the African Union mission in Somalia;
$1.38 billion for the Contributions to International Organizations (CIO) account, which funds the UN regular budget and specialized agencies. In addition, we ask for full funding for UNESCO (the House eliminated all UNESCO money, and the Senate reduced it); and
Maintain the Senate-recommended lift of the arbitrary 25% peacekeeping cap and allow the U.S. to pay its peacekeeping dues at the full assessed rate of 28.46%.
The UN will not succeed without a strong U.S. commitment, and effective global policy through a strong U.S.-UN relationship begins in our district.
Please use your voice in Congress to reaffirm your support for full funding for the UN and UN peacekeeping operations.
[City, State ZIP]
If you choose to write your own letter, please keep the following tips in mind.
- Your purpose for writing should be stated in the first paragraph of the letter.
- If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, identify it accordingly, e.g., House bill: H. R. ____, Senate bill: S.____.
- Be courteous, to the point, and include key information, using examples to support your position.
Address only one issue in each letter; and, if possible, keep the letter to one page.
Why is the UN important?
In our increasingly interconnected world, national challenges often require international solutions. Age-old calamities like war and disease have no respect for borders or boundaries – and their effects can spread rapidly. The UN provides a platform for the world to discuss and debate these common problems and more – problems like human trafficking, environmental degradation, weapons proliferation, and international terrorism. The UN, it is often said, is not a perfect institution, but it serves a near-perfect purpose: to promote global cooperation to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
Who funds the UN?
Are you a member of a campus club – or maybe a Greek society? If you are, chances are that you have to pay dues to the organization of which you are a member. That’s how the UN works too. Each of the 193 member states makes an annual contribution to fund the work of the UN, based on their Gross National Income (GNI). These general budget funds finance the General Assembly and the Security Council, among many other essential UN bodies and missions. Although the U.S. is the UN’s largest single contributor, its regular budget dues are capped at 22 percent, meaning the rest of the world is responsible for sharing over two-thirds of the UN’s total financial burden.
In addition, the UN’s peacekeeping budget is separate from the regular budget. You’ve most likely heard about peacekeeping in the news. Peacekeepers are the soldiers in blue helmets working in places like Sudan and the Congo. These service members come from all over the world – places like Jordan, India, and Nigeria – to help bring stability and normalcy to countries destroyed by war and political turmoil. The UN funds its peacekeeping budget with assessments on member states similar to those made for the regular budget, but with greater discounts for less wealthy nations.
With 16 missions currently in operation and a deployed military totaling 120,000, it’s easy to see why peacekeeping is the UN’s largest “line item” expenditure. Despite the price tag, however, peacekeeping operations are proven cost-effective and, most importantly, reduce the need for America to send its armed forces into harm’s way. To put it in perspective, a UN peacekeeper costs about $15,000 per year, with the U.S. covering just a share of that. On the other hand, we spend around $2 million per year on every single U.S. solider serving in Afghanistan right now.
How does the U.S. pay its UN Dues?
Congress and the president are responsible for making sure America pays both its UN regular and peacekeeping dues on time and in full. The process begins with the president’s annual budget request, which is then taken up by the House and Senate Appropriations committees separately. At the end of the day, both the Senate and the House’s bills have to be identical to go to the President for his signature and final approval. It’s a process that’s not always fluid and prone to deadlock. The UN is a political institution and UN funding is often a subject of political debate. By working through the UN and paying our dues, though, America is able to reinforce its core foreign, economic, and humanitarian priorities around the world – and that’s a sound investment
How does the UN promote human rights?
The U.S. has a long history of supporting UN human rights mechanisms, beginning with our deep involvement in founding the UN. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt led the effort to develop the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the first document in human history to spell out the basic civil, political, economic, and social rights that all human beings should enjoy. The UN works to defend and promote human rights through three key mechanisms within the UN system: Human Rights Treaties, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Human Rights Council.
What does the future hold for the UN?
In 2000, the UN came together to do something extraordinary – develop a new international framework for tackling some of the planet’s most complex challenges. Known as the Millennium Development Goals (or MDGs), the framework set forward eight development targets to be achieved by 2015, including halving extreme poverty rates and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS.
In the nearly 15 years since they were first enacted, the MDGs have made a huge impact in the lives of billions. With their target date fast approaching, discussion of what should succeed them —known as the “Post-2015 development agenda”— is one of the most important and impactful debates happening today. Inside the UN, 193 countries are working to agree on a new set of goals that will shape the next 15 years of global development priorities. These goals aim to enable the world’s seven billion-plus people to live lives of dignity without undermining the future of our planet.