Visit Your Legislator
August Instructions!! Make an Effective Legislative Office Visit
One of the most effective ways to educate your local legislators about IBD is to meet with them in person. August is a good time to meet with federal legislators because they will be in their home districts and states throughout the month.
Below is a suggested template for your guidance when making legislative visits. Be persistent as it may take several tries before you are able to schedule a meeting.
If you're having trouble scheduling a home visit, a Town Hall meeting is another opportunity for you meet your legislator. This is an ideal forum to ask questions, thank him/her for support or just strengthen your relationship with him/her. Prepare for this as you would for a one-on-one meeting, and review the speaking points provided below.
For additional information, you can view the presentation slides from the July 25th training:
Step 1: Lay the groundwork
Find your legislators by entering your zip code here and research their background. Take note of their Washington, DC office phone number.
Review the federal legislative recommendations. Handouts are provided in Step 3 (below) and in the Advocacy Toolkit.
In August, we recommend you focus your meetings on asking for support for the following:
- Support medical research on IBD in the final fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills
- Join the Congressional Crohn's & Colitis Caucus (for House Representatives)
Step 2: Contact your Representative and Senators
Call the member's Washington, DC office and request a meeting in the local district office nearest you. Askf or the scheduler and explain the purpose of your visit.
"Hello. My name is [NAME] and I am from [CITY]. I'm a constituent and a volunteer with the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. I would like to stop by the [REPRESENTATIVE'S or SENATOR'S] local office and briefly talk with them about supporting issues pertinent to patients with inflammatory bowel diseases."
Sample email (never use snail mail):
Don't be discouraged if the meeting is scheduled with an aide, rather than with the legislator. A meeting with a key member of the legislator's staff can be highly productive.
If you don't hear from the scheduler, be polite but persistent. Don't give up!
Consider letting us know you've asked for a meeting by emailing email@example.com.
Step 3: Be prepared for your visit
Have the handouts for your lawmakers in hand as you depart for your visits. The August handouts are:
If other advocates are joining you for your meeting, decide in advance who will speak on which topics and who will leave the materials.
Laslty, bring your camera! This is an excellent photo opportunity and lowmakers love good PR. Offer your photos to your chapter for their newsletter.
Step 4: Be prompt, to the point, and polite during the meeting. Then ask for something to be done
Be punctual to your meeting. Be flexible if the legislator is running late.
Make sure to clearly state the action you want legislators to take, for example:
- "As you finalize the fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills, please support research on IBD"
- "Please join the Congressional Crohn's & Colitis Caucus"
Use personal stories to underscore a point.
Be straightforward and courteous in expressing your views, and be receptive to the lawmakers questions and comments. If the lawmaker doesn't volunteer his or her position on the issue - ask!
If you're asked a question that you can't answer, don't guess. Instead, say that you will look into the question and give the lawmaker an answer as soon as possible. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you cannot answer.
Please remember, as a non-profit 501(C)(3) organization, the Foundation by law cannot make political contributions to members of Congress. Individuals may make contributions to legislators in line with existing federal campaign finance laws. The Foundation does not endorse any political candidate and seeks bipartisan support for its public policy initiatives.
Again - be sure to politely ask your lawmaker to take an action. This may sound trivial, but numerous lawmakers complain that they meet with nice consittuents who never make it clear what it is they want.
Step 5: Follow up after your visits
Send a thank you letter and reiterate the key points you discussed.
Update us on your meeting by emailing email@example.com. CCFA's advocacy staff can also help follow up.
Step 6: Continue your advocacy efforts
Join the Advocacy Network
Weigh in on policy issues via the Action Center
Invite your legislator to attend various chapter events and other photo opportunities.
Attend a local fundraiser or event of the lawmaker's.
Visit your legislators in their Capitol Hill offices when you're in Washington, DC.
If you have any concerns or additional questions not covered in these instructions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.