Best Practices for Participating in a Meeting with a Member of Congress

 

This page is designed to aid community members prepare for meeting with a member of Congress. In preparation for meeting with a member of Congress, it is recommended to fill out CAIR's elected official meeting planning sheet in conjunction with the information provided on this page.

Who will attend and what is their role?

Avoid delegations larger than five. If the meeting is in DC, two is the best number. Select people who will stay on message and not let their emotions get away from them. Know in advance of the meeting the job you want each member of your team to perform.

What is your outcome?

It is important to be clear about your purpose. Be specific in your requests and create the opportunity to follow up. For instance asking, "Will you vote in favor of legislation X" or "Will you bring this point up during debate on the House floor" are examples of specific requests. Make sure you have a name and contact information so you can follow-up. If you are in a position to organize a town hall with Muslim constituents, inviting the congressperson to visit with the community is another good strategy.

Pitching Your Issue

As you frame your arguments to elicit support for your concerns, think about how the congressperson adopting the issue will help you both, and how it will impact their district. Make adopting your position appealing to their interests. Try to mix a brief personal story in with your facts and figures.

Best Practices

  • Be punctual. Plan on meeting for no more than fifteen minutes; however, be willing to stay longer if the congressperson is receptive.
  • Know the congressperson's views and priorities before your meeting; this will help you frame the most convincing argument. This information can be found through a visit to his or her website, searching the internet, or reading articles about him or her in the local paper. On issues where you cannot come to a mutually agreeable conclusion, always maintain basic courtesy.
  • Be factual and honest. Summarize your three most important points at the beginning and end of the meeting. Never argue motivations, only the merits of the issues.

Things to Avoid

Don't make commitments you cannot keep. Don't tell the congressperson or their staff that you want to "make them aware of" an issue. Once they find you're not asking for anything specific, their attention may drift.

Supporting Materials

Materials supporting your issue should be no more than five pages in length. Your first paragraph should clearly state what you are concerned about and what can be done.

After the Meeting

Fill out a copy of CAIR's lobby meeting report to document the meeting. Send a thank you note to everyone with whom you met. Promptly send any material you promised and take any action to which you committed. Call in two weeks and ask what action has been taken.

Want to know more? Need help or advice? Call CAIR and talk to our government affairs department.

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