The ABC’s of meeting with your elected officials -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The ABC’s of meeting with your elected officials

Before the meeting

  • Research your congressional delegation’s interests and responsibilities in Congress. Read up on their professional backgrounds, their committee assignments, any focused membership groups to which they belong, their legislative accomplishments, etc. Does your Representative serve on any internationally oriented committees? Most of this information is available on individual legislators’ home pages at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov .
  • Prepare your strongest talking points. Your meeting will probably last only 10-20 minutes. Ensure that your information is accurate and be ready to answer questions.
  • Prepare materials to bring to the meeting and to leave with your legislator or their staff. Please bring a one page (front and back if necessary) summary of your affiliate’s work (if applicable).
  • Bring a camera to take a photo at the meeting.
  • Please wear business attire.

During the meeting

  • Arrive on time, but don’t be surprised if your meetings start late. Don’t be offended if you are asked to have your meeting in the hallway or cafeteria as this is merely a result of space limitations. It is quite likely that you will meet with a staff person instead of your elected official. Staff level meetings are extremely valuable, as legislators rely on them heavily for policy advice.
  • Be respectful. Due to small offices, loud conversations in the waiting area are not appreciated.
  • Identify yourself Introduce yourself and start on a positive note. Say “thank you” for past support of Habitat.
  • Clearly state your legislative asks.
  • Explain your position with the facts, but always use personal/local stories when possible. Legislators are most interested in how legislation will impact their districts and constituents. Never speak ill of another legislator, staff member or advocacy group.
  • Ask for an explanation if you don’t understand a position or statement.
  • Get an answer. Ask the legislator or staffer how he or she will respond to the requests that you make. If an answer cannot be provided immediately, ask when you can follow up to get a response.
  • Invite your legislators and their staff to visit your local Habitat affiliate.
  • Share your value as a resource. Offer to be a source of information on the specific housing issues addressed, on your work with Habitat, and on affordable housing more generally.
  • Thank the legislator and staff as you leave.

After the meeting

  • Write or call your legislators to thank them for their time. Reiterate your major points and remind them of anything they may have agreed to do.
  • Send along any additional materials that were requested or follow up with the answers to questions.
  • Share the results of your meetings by filling out a legislative feedback form after the visit. Share insights you have gained about legislators’ concerns and interests.