Build a relationship with your Member of Congress. Start with a letter or call. Decide on one specific topic that you would like to address. If you call, speak with staffer that works on issues pertaining to career development. If you send a letter, make sure that it is original and not a form letter. For both means of communication, explain your issue and ask for the Member’s position on the issue. Be succinct and courteous with both means of communication.
Always follow up with a thank-you letter. Members of Congress remember constituent engagement. In the thank-you letter it would be appropriate to ask for an update on the issue you previously addressed with the Member.
The personal visit is the most effective communication with a Member of Congress. The personal visit by a constituent and the issue presented usually receives a higher priority. The time and expense you have put forth to meet with your Member of Congress is one that is taken seriously. If you can’t go to Washington DC, you can also contact their district office to find local events where you can meet their member on local staff. On specific issues, it is important to contact the DC staff as they are often the subject matter experts.
Be Honest. Your credibility is priceless. If you lose it, you will never get it back. Know what you are talking about. If you don’t have an answer to a question regarding the issue, then let the Member know you will get an answer and provide it to staff
When addressing your issue, present your facts and points succinctly and quickly, then listen to your Member’s response. The idea is to establish a dialogue on not only this issue, but laying the foundation for engagement on future issues.
Whether it is the Member or a staffer, be prepared for pushback if you know the office has an opposite view on an issue. Don't let it rattle you, don't back down, but also don't be too aggressive or heated in your response. Remember that the benefit of your feedback is that you're not the only one and the cumulative impact of you and others reaching out is what will move the needle.
If the Member is unable to meet with you and staff is assigned to cover, consider the staff person to be the eyes and ears of the Member. Staff can vary in age but that it doesn't mean they are not knowledgeable on a subject.
Ask for a commitment of support from the Member, but do not threaten.
Provide a one-page fact sheet that recaps the points of your issue to be addressed
End the meeting on a positive statement, especially with a “Thank You”
Follow up with a written thank you, providing any information to questions posed by the Member or staff. Indicate that you will be monitoring the issue and will provide any updates to the Member.
Schedule a follow up communication to ascertain what action the Member has made regarding the issue. Let your state reps and the NCDA Government Relations Committee know of your efforts and outcomes to aid in the national coordination of outreach promoting NCDA and career development services for all.
Visit the official website for more helpful tips: Congress.org
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