Photo: Operation Broken Silence Executive Director meets with Congressman Frank Wolf to discuss policy options in Sudan.
When you are meeting with a member of Congress or one of their staff members, you should always have two goals in mind:
1. Your short-term goal is to get the Member to take action on the ask(s) you present.
2. Your long-term goal is to develop a relationship with the elected official’s
Building a relationship with your Member of Congress will help you have lasting influence and will ensure that the elected official becomes a leader on Sudan/South Sudan issues.
Here are some tips to make your meeting the best it can be:
1. Identify yourself and your influence. ID yourself as a constituent and that you are activist with Operation Broken Silence. Tell them YOUR story - why you and your community care about Sudan and South Sudan.
2. Be polite, respectful, and on time. You can be passionate, bold, and respectful all at the same time.
3. Know who you are talking to. Read up on your Member of Congress before the meeting. What will be your most appealing argument considering their background? Why should this Member care about Sudan and South Sudan?
4. Ask for a firm commitment. Ask if they plan to take the suggested action. If yes, thank them. If no, or they’re not sure, ask them if they need additional information to help them make a decision. Ask when you can follow up (by phone or email). This should be no more than one or two weeks following the in-person meeting.
5. Keep it short and to the point- be succinct, well-organized, and direct. Congressional staff are very busy people and may have only a maximum of 20 minutes for a meeting. Try to leave time for discussion and conversation.
6. Ask for contact information (email, phone, full name). Get their business card and any associates with them as well. You’ll need this info for follow up.
7. Do not mention campaign contributions. It intimates that the Member of Congress is for sale. That is not only extremely offensive, it is illegal.
How To Followup
Effective follow up is often more important than the meeting itself. It helps to further develop your relationship with the Member of Congress and their staff so that they begin to see someone who will hold them accountable to an ask and as a constituent who has influence in their State or District.
Immediately following the meeting (as in the same day), mail or email a hand- written thank you note to the Member and staffer. Be sincere and respectful and show them you appreciate their time.
About a week later, you should send a follow up email or call the Member or staffer asking whether they have taken the action and to offer more information on the issue. If you met as a group, at this point other members of your group can follow up as well. It is good for an office to hear from multiple constituents on an issue. You can offer yourself as a source of information and demonstrate that you can be a reliable resource to help make their job less difficult. Ideas for follow up include:
- Highlighting local events or demonstrations concerning Sudan.
- Sharing local articles and press on the issue.
- Forwarding important reports, media, and developments from Sudan.
- Urging support for new actions and suggested ways they can help.
Remember, you don’t want to be annoying, so following up once a week or once every two weeks is appropriate.
Sample Followup Email
Thank you for meeting with me and my colleagues on insert date concerning the crisis in Sudan. I appreciate you taking the time to discuss ongoing atrocities taking place in the country. I am convinced that Representative/Senator ______________ can make a difference in the lives of those affected by these conflicts.
As we decided in our meeting, I will follow up with you on (insert date) concerning (insert action item.)
You can find additional information on the issues we discussed at www.obsilence.org. Thank you again for listening to our story and the story of the people of the Sudans. I look forwards to continuing to be in touch in the months ahead about these issues. In the meantime, if I can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
(Full name, home address, contact info)