Creating Face-to-Face Successes: Goals, Achievements, and Plans

Anne Child, RESULTS Regional Coordinator and RESULTS Austin volunteer
September 02, 2014

Both the U.S. poverty and Global poverty advocates have been focusing on getting face-to-face meetings with our members of Congress during the August recess.  Now that the recess is over, it’s a perfect time to 1) see how we’re doing, 2) celebrate our accomplishments, and 3) make plans for the rest of the year.

How are we doing?  At the beginning of the year goals were set for face-to-face meeting with Members of Congress:

  • 100% of the representatives covered  -- Global Poverty covers = 199; U.S. Poverty covers = 110
  • 30% of the senators covered -- Global Poverty covers 72, goal = 24; U.S. Poverty covers 58, goal = 19

With two-thirds of the year in the history books, here are the totals (as of August 29, 2014). Of course, these numbers are only as good as the data that has been reported.  If you have not reported your meetings, please do so via the online Lobby Report form.

Celebrate our accomplishments!  So many inspiring report continue to roll in, it’s a shame we can’t cover them all.  Here are a few with their “lessons learned”.

Seize the opportunity to educate your MoC - Ginnie Vogts of RESULTS Columbus

Last week, I actually got a call from Congressman Patrick Tiberi (R-OH 12th) who sits on the very important House Ways and Means Committee, which deals with taxes. He was calling to explain that he couldn't meet with us this month because we’d met with him several times before and he was reserving his meeting times for new constituents. But he was willing to speak on the phone and discuss the issues we care about. We ended up talking for almost twenty minutes, mostly about various tax issues.

I mentioned the EITC and Child Tax Credit, which are not new to him. In the past, he has assured me that he is in favor of EITC and CTC and they are not going away. However, he has not voted to make the 2009 improvements that we support permanent.  We talked about HR 4935, the bad CTC bill. He voted for it but when I pointed out that it expanded the CTC to wealthy families but would eliminate it for 4.5 million children who are U.S. citizens, he was astonished. He asked me to send him information about this. I was grateful to be in a position to educate him and provide him the facts, which RESULTS provided me.

I was becoming discouraged about not finding the common ground that I always hope for. So I said to myself “what the heck” and went all in. I asked him to be the voice for struggling families in his party, families who have no one to turn to, who often feel hopeless working full-time but still living in poverty. I asked him to find a way to work for them that really helps. What did I have to lose?  I don’t know if he’ll take up my challenge, but maybe he'll think of that as he reads the material I sent and he thinks about what will happen to EITC and CTC families after 2017. Maybe I'm a dreamer but at least I had a chance to have this conversation.  A step, even if it’s a baby one, is still a step.

How to use MoC meetings to expand RESULTS congressional coverage – Lucinda Winslow & Bill Baker from Stamford, CT

Up to now we have met face-to-face with our own representatives. But for 2 years running on Lobby Day in D.C., we have also had meetings with staff of all 7 of CT’s MoC’s. Because of this, we as a team have been building strong and consistent relationships with staff.

This recess, we put on an extra push to get appointments with new-to-us Reps.  Thanks to the connection with the DC staff, we managed to get an appointment with Rep. Esty (D-CT 5th). We also worked to find and bring a constituent with us.  We contacted friends in the area who gave us several names. The executive director of a homeless shelter and food pantry in Esty’s district jumped at the chance.

Though the meeting was a whirlwind 15 minutes, we covered global & domestic issues and the constituent asked Rep. Esty to visit their shelter.  Esty was delighted to find allies around poverty issues—she’s a champion waiting to happen and we are an avenue to her as well.  Esty was impressed, and now we have local constituent connections as we build a state-wide coalition.

Use all the tools RESULTS teaches us - Jacqueline Vaida from Queens, NY

Jacqueline had only one day to prepare for a meeting with her Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY 14th) and she took on the challenge like a seasoned advocate. 

Take an ally from the community:  Jacqueline had met a nice fellow, Kewulay, from Sierra Leone who, of course, was very concerned about the Ebola crisis in his home country.  She told him about RESULTS and our Gavi campaign.  He was interested in helping out.  She asked him if he would like to visit with his MoC.  Yes!

Plan your meeting:  Jacqueline and Kewulay met.  How would they approach the conversation and use the time well?  Kewulay had a story to tell.  They discussed how to relate it to the Gavi requests.  But they knew to allow for true conversation with the Congressman.

Find common ground:  Kewulay is from Africa, is a storyteller and a musician.  The Congressman shared his personal African experience and that his wife is a nurse.  He said he also considers himself to be a storyteller.  Jacqueline “researched” Crowley by being observant of his pictures on the wall and noticed that he plays guitar.  They had an immediate connection.

Tell a story: Kewulay shared about witnessing the shift that happened in his country since children have been getting vaccinations.

Be prepared with information and a specific request: Jacqueline was ready on queue to fill in the details about Gavi and make the requests.  Rep. Crowley said “Yes,” he’ll cosponsor the Gavi resolution and “Yes” he’ll send a letter to the administration about funding child survival.

Go for the stretch request: Not being satisfied with simply a yes to everything she requested, Jacqueline asked if Congressman Crowley could think of any Republican colleagues he could ask to cosponsor the resolution.  Without too much trouble, he agreed to reach out to two fellow representatives!

Give your MoCs the support they need to make a difference - Cathy Lyons-Spear from Asheville, NC

During the August recess, the Asheville team met with their new very conservative Tea Party Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC 11th).  In previous meetings they discovered Congressman Meadows specifically requested to be on Foreign Affairs because that is his passion.  He has been to developing countries and knows there are vital actions needed to save lives.  His refreshing enthusiasm during this meeting caused him to text instructions to his D.C. staffer to cosponsor the Gavi resolution as the RESULTS team was making the request.  He however did not believe this was sufficient.  So just after the meeting Congressman Meadows personally contacted USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah strongly advising USAID to robustly support Gavi’s vaccination programs.

Still totally astounded by the congressman, Cathy asked if Congressman Meadows would prefer not to be thanked in the media for his actions.  He felt the public should know about these successful programs.  He would appreciate having advocates from the non-partisan RESULTS organization support and acknowledge his actions.  This would be better than having some media outlet discover and misrepresent the issue and his position.

Make plans for the rest of the year.  These great accomplishments should inspire us to be creative in finding ways to meet with our elected officials… and opposing candidates.  We have four months to reach our goals.  Since it is an election year, there are plenty of opportunities during the following scheduled recesses:

 

September

October

November

December

1-7: House Recess

1-7: Senate Recess

20-28: House Recess

3-31: House Recess

13:  Senate Recess

1-11: House Recess

11: Senate Recess

21-30: House Recess

27-28: Senate Recess

5-8: House Recess

13-31: House Recess

25: Senate Recess