Be Seen As a Resource for Elected Officials and their Staff
Do some homework on the member of Congress. If you don't know them personally, read about the member's background and previous occupation. If possible, find out where the member stands on the issues you will be discussing. For example, have they cosponsored legislation of interest? Knowing the member’s current level of involvement on an issue will help you tailor the discussion and enable you – and the member – to get the most out of the conversation.
If your member of Congress has to cancel your appointment at the last moment, ask to meet with a staff member. In Washington, you’ll want to ask for the Legislative Assistant (LA) who handles education issues. The member’s LA will often do most of the research and voting recommendations on education issues. In the district office, the staff may not be specifically assigned to education issues; however, staffers are responsible for setting the member’s schedule and serve as the eyes and ears for the member in the district. Developing a good rapport with both the Washington and District staff is an important step in building a relationship with the member.
During your meeting, you may be given as little as 15 minutes with the member of Congress and/or staff, so be sure your presentation is concise and well-organized. Discuss with your colleagues how the presentation will be conducted ahead of time.
If you are meeting about a specific issue, ask the member of Congress direct questions, and leave them with a clear impression of the action you want taken.
Most importantly, be sure to use local, personalized examples of how the issue affects your institution, students and local employers. After all, what the member really wants to know is how the issue will impact their constituents.
Leave fact sheets or issue papers with the member or staff, and offer to follow-up the meeting with supplementary information and further assistance.
If you are meeting with the member during a time when there is not an education issue before Congress, use this opportunity to explain how important your institution is to the community that your member represents and to discuss other items of importance to local employers. Having this sort of "meet and greet" visit with your member of Congress in a non-crunch time is an important part of relationship building.
When you meet with an elected official to discuss an issue or host them on campus, please make sure that you let APSCU's Grassroots team know what transpired. Simply email the details to the Senior Director of Political Engagement Tami Plofchan.
Following a visit by an elected official, it is good protocol to send a thank you note. If a staffer joined the tour, be sure to also write them a note as well. In closing the letter, consider mentioning an open invitation to tour the campus again, stopping by a job fair, etc. Most importantly, you want to be seen as a resource for elected officials and their staff in the district and/or state.
If you have any questions on Grassroots Advocacy, please contact APSCU's Senior Director of Political Engagement Tami Plofchan at 202-336-6811 or viaemail.
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