January 2011 U.S. Poverty Action

Set Up Face-to-Face Meetings with Members of Congress

The new 112th Congress will be sworn into office on January 5, 2011. There are approximately 125 new members of Congress, which means that there are many freshman members who are not only new to Washington, but new to RESULTS’ campaigns to end domestic poverty, such as early childhood education, economic opportunity and health care for all. However, lack of experience for new members of Congress is an opportunity — you can be the ones who meet them first and get them to care about helping lift and keep people out of poverty. And we shouldn’t forget about the returning members! There is tremendous pressure to only focus on domestic issues, which is a great opportunity to get push our priorities. They need to hearing from you — their constituents — that they have support to take bold action on domestic poverty.

Start working now to request face-to-face meetings during January right as the 112th congressional session begins. They will be home in their districts through mid-January and again for the President's Day recess in February. Their schedules fill up quickly, so now is the time to contact their schedulers and staffers to set up a meeting.

Call the Scheduler to Set Up a Face-to-Face Meeting in January

  1. Request your meeting now to increase the likelihood of getting a meeting during one of the recesses.

  2. Find contact information for your member of Congress’ DC or district office through the RESULTS website. You can find their Washington DC scheduler’s name under the “Staff” tab. You can also dial directly to the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your representative’s or senator’s office.

  3. Before calling, prepare what to say (see below).

  4. Once connected to the office, ask for the scheduler.

  5. Use the following conversation as a template for the conversation with the scheduler.

Hi, my name is _________________, and I am a constituent of Rep./Sen. _________________ from _________________. I am also a volunteer with RESULTS, a grassroots group working to end hunger and poverty here and abroad. RESULTS has a proven track record of working with legislators from all backgrounds to achieve smart, cost-effective, and compassionate solutions to poverty. I know that Rep./Sen. _________________ values input from constituents on the issues that matter to us. With that in mind, our local RESULTS group would like to schedule meeting with Rep./Sen.______________ while he/she is still home this month to discuss smart investments in early childhood programs and innovative policies to help low-income families build savings and break the cycle of poverty. Would it be possible to do that today? There will be at least ____ of us at the meeting and these are the issues we would like to discuss. What times would he be available to meet?

  1. Be sure to note the name of the scheduler and thank that person for their assistance. If you don’t get a firm answer when you call, mention when you’ll be following up. Also, if the member of Congress has no time to meet in January, ask to schedule a meeting the next time he/she is back home.

For additional tips on how to schedule your face-to-face meeting, check out our Activist Milestone: Meet Face-to-Face with Your Member of Congress, which includes a sample letter to the scheduler. Some offices may ask for a written request; ask the scheduler if you can e-mail the request.

Top Tips on Having a Good Face-to-Face Meeting

Once you have scheduled your meeting, here are a few tips on making the most of your meeting:

  1. Plan your meeting ahead of time. In a face-to-face meeting, you want to make sure you use your time effectively. Get with your group and plan who will manage the meeting, decide what issues you want to cover, what role each person has in the meeting, how much time you’ll spend on each item, and who will take notes. Ironing out these details before the meeting will help you manage your time well and also give the impression of professionalism and commitment. Use our Lobby Planning and Report Form to help with your planning.

  2. Keep the agenda simple. Try to limit your discussion at the meeting to 1-2 primary issues (3 at the most). Covering too many things at one meeting can confuse both sides and also dilute your message. Focus on the most pressing issues, or the issues this legislator can have the most impact upon. For additional issues, plan to leave behind a one to two page summary of those issues and your requests.

  3. 50/50 Rule: Talk AND Listen. Face-to-face meetings are a means to developing deeper relationships with your members of Congress and their staff. Therefore, they are most effective when they are a dialogue between your group and the legislator. Simply talking at them accomplishes little. Plan to make the meeting a conversation; ask questions, share stories, and respond to what they are saying. Remember the 50/50 rule: when meeting, don’t talk more than fifty percent of the time.

  4. Questions and Objections are Good Things. Rarely do members of Congress agree with everything you request in a meeting. Many times, they will have questions or objections to your positions. Do not be intimidated by these. They are opportunities to learn and better understand where your MoC is coming from. If your representative or senator does not support your position, ask for details of their objections. The more you learn about their positions, the more prepared you’ll be to follow up with their office.

  5. Remember the Goal. The goal of your meeting is to make your member of Congress a champion on your issue. However, different MoCs have different priorities, so making them a champion may not happen in one meeting. Therefore, you want to know where they are and the steps necessary to get them where you want them to be. RESULTS’ Champion Scale can help you assess and strategize the best ways to move your members of Congress to where you want them to be.

  6. Follow-up. Following up with congressional offices after a meeting is crucial. If you don’t follow up, it is almost not worth the time to do the meeting. Follow-up gives you the opportunity to make your case again, perhaps in an even more informed way. By taking the information you learned from your meeting and using that to address concerns and hit home your request, you reinforce your message and further strengthen a working relationship with your congressional offices. And of course, first and foremost, follow up should include a thank you for the meeting.

For a complete step-by-step process for scheduling, planning and executing an effect face-to-face meeting, see our Activist Milestone: Meeting Face-to-Face with Your Member of Congress. In addition, if you are attending a town hall meeting or public event, see our Activist Milestone: Ask a Question at a Town Hall Event for tips on how to make the most of that experience.

RESULTS’ 2011 U.S. Poverty Campaigns Summary

In 2011, RESULTS’ U.S. Poverty Campaigns will focus on breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty. We seek to enact policies that help lift and keep families out of poverty while protecting their children from falling back into poverty in the future.

Early Childhood Development: Smart Investments in the Early Years

RESULTS has been a tireless advocate of quality early childhood development policies. Research shows that children who participate in a quality program during their preschool years are better prepared to learn, have higher self-esteem, and possess more developed social skills when they start kindergarten. RESULTS strongly supports increased investments in Head Start, a federally funded preschool program that provides comprehensive services to low-income children and their parents, and Early Head Start, a child development program for pregnant women and low-income families with infants and toddlers. We also advocate for investments for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) which provides child care assistance to low-income families and provides critical funds to states to help them improve the quality of child care. Unfortunately, Head Start serves less than 50 percent of eligible preschoolers, Early Head Start serves less than 6 percent of all eligible families, and CCDBG serves only one out of seven eligible children.

With the new Congress and many members pushing for drastic and indiscriminate budget cuts, these programs will need RESULTS’ unique voice and grassroots’ strength to push back against these reckless policies. RESULTS groups will urge policymakers to protect and increase funding for CCDBG and Head Start for next year, learning from the expertise our global staff and volunteers have developed in influencing the appropriations process. This campaign will focus on the annual appropriations (part of the “Labor HHS” appropriations bill), with particular attention on the needs of infants and toddlers.

Creating Economic Opportunity and Breaking the Cycle of Poverty through Asset-Building

Building assets and savings helps low-income families to become financially self-reliant. In addition to increasing financial security, assets support low-income families in breaking the cycle of poverty by enabling them to weather emergencies, make investments in property, achieve a higher education, and create small business. In addition, low-income families that are able to save money are more likely to have children who are upwardly mobile when they become adults. To achieve this, it is critical to connect low-income Americans with the financial system and with savings products. There are still relatively few organizations engaged in efforts to enact asset building policies, and even less with any grassroots capacity. This gives RESULTS a unique opportunity to make a difference.

In the coming year, we will launch a multi-year campaign to enact federal legislation that creates progressive asset-based programs with a focus on the Saver’s Bonus. The Saver’s Bonus would provide a simple and flexible opportunity for millions of low-income taxpayers to begin saving at tax time. Essentially, the Saver’s Bonus allows low-income taxpayers to create savings accounts, with a dollar-for-dollar match on a portion of their tax refund, right on the tax form. Of all the asset building policies, the Saver’s Bonus stands out because it uses the existing tax system and moment of opportunity to save (while filing taxes), and provides a safe and flexible product to attract families often nervous about their financial future.

We will discuss the new Congress and our 2011 U.S. Poverty campaigns on the January 2011 National Conference Call — Saturday, January 8 at 12:30 pm ET. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 with your group by 12:28 pm ET.