In-Person Meetings with Your Elected Officials
A face-to-face meeting is the best way to communicate an issue with your lawmaker. Research by the Congressional Management Foundation and its Partnership for a More Perfect Union asked members of Congress and their staff what activities would be most influential on an issue the elected official had not already arrived at a firm decision. This also holds true for most state-level elected officials.
"In-person visit from constituent" was the #1 answer, with 94% of respondents saying it would have "a lot" or "some" positive influence on their decision.
ASCE Members, Sections, and Branches are strongly encouraged to meet with their elected officials at least once per year. Establishing a solid relationship with your representative is a good way to help advance ASCE's public policy agenda and improve congressional decision-making.
Here are some helpful hints for effective meetings:
- Call ahead of time for an appointment, either in the district, state capital, or Washington D.C. office.
- Don't feel intimidated by the legislator. Most likely, you are more of an expert on your subject than the legislator. Be confident.
- Be personable. Begin your meeting by complimenting the Representative on legislation he/she has written or supported. This will set a pleasant tone for the rest of your meeting.
- Be knowledgeable of your subject and organized in your presentation. Show that you are a credible authority on your topic and keep your pitch concise. Remember to emphasize how the issue affects those in your community. For instance, infrastructure investment is a national issue with local ramifications.
- Be open to questions. Be an active listener and answer the representative's questions with accurate facts. If you're unsure about an answer, offer to look into the matter and call back.
- Don't allow the legislator to divert from a subject matter. If he/she attempts to evade your question, tactfully ask for an answer and how the representative plans to vote on the issue.
- Have perseverance when your legislator seems unsupportive of your cause. Respond to any hostility by providing arguments to opponent's questions. This may require you to do some additional research before you meet with your legislator.
- Emphasize that the legislator's constituency supports what you are advocating. The fact that an issue is important to his/her constituents will most likely prompt the representative to make your goals part of his/her agenda.
- Ask for a commitment. Find out exactly how the representative will further your cause. But, do not press for a commitment if your legislator is clearly opposed to your views.
- Be willing to meet with a staff person if the legislator is unavailable. A staffer is able to inform the representative of your views and relay your concerns.
Use our Advocacy Strategy Worksheet to help you prepare for a one-on-one visit with your elected officials.
Writing to Your Elected Officials
Use ASCE's Click & Connect with Congress advocacy website to quickly develop an informative letter on an issue currently facing Congress or your state legislature.
When writing a letter to your representative, observe the following suggestions:
- Keep your message clear, concise, and as brief as possible. No more than two pages, double-spaced or 1,500 characters (approximately 750 words or less).
- Identify yourself as a constituent by including your home and/or work address in the representative's district.
- Where appropriate, include a brief description of your organization or company. While this may seem obvious, it is surprising how many people forget to include critical information like name, address and telephone numbers. If your business is located in the member's district, be sure to make this clear.
- Identify the issue and the bill (if applicable) that you are addressing.
- Support your position by including examples whenever possible. Describe the impact, both economic and emotional, of passage or defeat of legislation on you, your organization and/or your community.
- Personalize your letter as much as possible. Avoid using form letters.
- Make it short and to the point. Address only one issue in each letter. Be specific.
- Ask for support or action from the member. People often forget to ask the member to do something, or fail to describe what action should be taken (e.g. vote against the bill.) Remember: If you don't ask for anything, then you won't get anything.
For more information, contact the Government Relations staff.