Contact Your Legislators
An important part of the Foundation’s advocacy work is making our voices heard. Building relationships with legislators at the state and federal levels is essential to achieving our legislative priorities.
There are several ways for you to communicate and build relationships with the people who have been elected to represent you. We can help you prepare and get organized to make the most out of your interactions with your legislators.
Learn who your legislators are and how to contact them.
Meet with Your Legislators
Meeting with your legislators in person is one of the most effective ways to educate them about IBD and advocate for change.
There are several ways to get face time with your legislators:
Schedule an appointment in their capitol office - whether the Washington, D.C. office for federal legislators, or the state capitol for state legislators
Schedule an appointment at one of their district offices near you
Attend a town hall meeting or other public event
Be polite but persistent. It may take several tries to schedule a meeting. When you call to make an appointment, ask to speak to the office scheduler. Follow up if you don’t hear back from them.
Sample script to use when making an appointment:
"Hello, my name is [NAME] and I am from [CITY]. I am a volunteer with the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation. I would like to stop by the [REPRESENTATIVE'S or SENATOR'S] local office and briefly talk with them about supporting issues that are important to patients like me who are living with inflammatory bowel disease."
The meeting may be scheduled with an aide rather than with the legislator, but don't be discouraged. A meeting with a key member of the legislator's staff can still be highly productive.
Call or Email Members of Congress
Calling or sending an email is also a good option if you are unable to meet with your legislators or want to relay a message quickly. We recommend calling and emailing your legislators' health aides directly from your email rather than using standardized web forms, although both can be effective. You can learn who the health aides are by calling your the office number listed on your legislator's website and asking. Track the contacts you make using this worksheet.
Tips for Communicating with Your Legislators
We can help you prepare for your interaction with members of Congress or your state legislators, whether it’s in person, on the phone, or over email.
Do Your Research
Once you’ve identified your legislators, do some research about their background, their interests, and the healthcare measures they may have supported or opposed.
Prepare for Your Visit
Practice telling your IBD story. Keep it short — we recommend a brief synopsis of your disease journey that you can tell in two to three minutes. Consider whether you can connect your personal story to the policies you are advocating for to drive home how their support would impact you. See our worksheet for more tips.
Bring hard copies of handouts to your meeting. These can be helpful to remind you to stay on topic and it can serve as a reference point for the legislator after you leave.
Be Prompt, to the Point, and Polite
Give yourself a little extra time before your meeting, even if it’s a scheduled phone call. Being punctual is important. At the same time, be flexible if the legislator is running behind. You can use the extra time to continue your meeting preparation.
Make sure you clearly explain the action you would like your legislator to take. This may seem obvious, but many lawmakers have said it is frustrating to meet with their constituents and not know what they are looking for. Always start the meeting with the 'ask,' for example, "I'm here to ask you to co-sponsor the Safe Step Act."
Be straightforward and courteous in expressing your views, and be receptive to the lawmaker’s questions and comments. If the legislator doesn't volunteer his or her position on the issue, feel free to 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 get them an answer as soon as possible. Email us at [email protected] with any questions you cannot answer.
If you are meeting in person or over the phone, send a thank you email and reiterate the key points you discussed. Continue to follow up on your meeting by periodic emails and phone calls until you get a yes or no response.
Continue Your Advocacy Efforts
There are many ways to continue your advocacy efforts after that first communication with your legislators:
Update us! We’d love to hear about your advocacy work. Email us at [email protected] and our advocacy staff can help you follow up.
If you took a picture with your legislator, send it to them with your thank you email reiterating the asks. Don’t forget to send us a copy as well!
Continue to reach out to your legislators at opportunity moments. For example, invite your legislators to attend local chapter events.
Join the Advocacy Network to stay informed and updated about our advocacy work.
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.