Visiting your Senators and Representative in their district or Capitol Hill office is a great way to introduce them to your work and advocate for your position on a youth policy issue.
Setting Up a Visit
Members of Congress are typically in their home states Friday through Monday or during one of the congressional recess periods. During the middle of the week when Congress is in session, they are in Washington, D.C. To make an appointment to meet with a Member of Congress, call their appointment secretary/scheduler and give your name, organization and city, and the issue you wish to discuss. If there will be others in your community joining you for the visit, inform the scheduler-it may be easier to get an appointment for a group than an individual. You can reach the Capitol Hill office of any Member of Congress at 202.225.3121.
Before the Visit
Know the issue. Become familiar with the legislation you will discuss in your meeting. Use resources provided by the National Network for Youth to learn about the goals of the legislation. Read the legislation for specific information. Stay in touch with the National Network for Youth for the latest information about the legislation.
Plan your time. If you have more than one office to visit, schedule your visits with sufficient time to allow for meetings starting late and time to get from one office to the other. Do not arrive late. If you anticipate that you will be late, call ahead.
Invite others. Be sure that each visit includes both youth and adults. Board members, other staff, and others from your community also may be included in the meeting, as they will bring a different perspective to the discussion.
Keep your message simple. Plan your presentation to last only five minutes and no longer than 10 minutes. Do not expect Members of Congress or staff to spend more than 15 minutes with your group. Be sure to include information about the connections between your work and the issue. Ask others to do the same to show the many different ways the issue will impact your community.
Share responsibility. Have more than one person in your group speak during the presentation. Prior to your meeting, outline what you want to cover in your presentation and divide up roles and talking points. It is often helpful to choose who in your group will initiate and facilitate the meeting. Ensure that youth have an equal opportunity to speak during the meeting.
Be prepared. The Member of Congress will likely ask you questions about the issue and/or your organization’s work. Answer questions about who you are and what you have presented. If you do not answer the question, promise to find out and get back to them.
Bring handouts. A letter from your organization on the issue is good material to have on hand. You should also provide a brochure or a one-page description of your organization. You may also wish to give them a copy of the legislation and a fact sheet.