Working with Congress: Activist Milestone #4
Establish a Relationship with the Congressional Aide Who Handles Your Issue
One of the secrets of RESULTS' success has been our relationship-building work with the congressional aides who handle issues of hunger and poverty. These aides often meet daily with their representatives and senators to offer advice and to interpret the thousands of bills that are introduced in Congress each year. Developing relationships with these aides so that they become our allies in our quest to make champions of our members of Congress is a key component in building the necessary political will to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the globe.
Use this guide to put together an action plan for the aides in your own congressional offices. This blog post by one of our advocates is a simple guide to building great relationships. You can also check out this webinar on Initiating and Building Relationships with Members of Congress.
Step One: Learn more about your representative and senators.
Get background information about your members of Congress and their positions on the issues. Here are some sources for this information:
Step Two: Identify the aides in Washington who handle your issues.
This may involve a call to the local or DC office. In some cases, one staff member will handle several issues simultaneously. You can also find fairly accurate information on the Elected Officials page on our website. Once you get to the photo and bio of the specific member of Congress, click on the "Staff" button a bove his/her photo. If you cannot find the specific aide on our website, call your member of Congress' Washington, DC office and ask for the person who handles your specific issue.
You can map out specific information about House and Senate aides by using the chart below (or your own):
Representative: _________________________________ Point Person from Group: _________________
Senator #1: _________________________________ Point Person from Group: _________________
Senator #2: _________________________________ Point Person from Group: _________________
Step Three: Begin to build a relationship with the key aides.
Step Four: Work with your group to establish an effective system of communicating information and requests to the aide, including following up.
Tips on communicating with your aide via e-mail or fax:
Step Five: Acknowledge your member of Congress for his or her actions AND be sure to thank the aide(s) for their help.
In addition to handwritten thank you notes faxed to the congressional office, you can also write a letter to the editor of your local paper recognizing your member of Congress for a positive action or attend a town hall meeting where your member is speaking and thank him or her in front of the room.
Remember that representatives, senators, and their aides field countless requests and complaints. Your consistent acknowledgement of their positive actions and responsiveness to constituent concerns will go a long way toward making champions out of your members of Congress and establishing strong, reciprocal relationships with their aides.