Finding Your Members of Congress
Here are some websites where you can find contact information for your members of Congress by entering your zipcode.
- Congress.org – www.congress.org
- Project Vote Smart – votesmart.org
- United States House of Representatives – www.house.gov (U.S. House members only)
- United States Senate – www.senate.gov – Search by state. (U.S. Senate only)
Arranging a Meeting with a Congressional District Office
- Send a letter (by fax) requesting a meeting to the congressional office. Make sure to state what organization you are from and that you want to discuss the Vision for Space Exploration. (See sample letter)
- Follow-up with a phone call to verify that they received it. Be ready to answer detailed questions about your organization and what will be discussed at the meeting.
- If they do not respond within a few days, call them back to check the status of your meeting request. After this, call back weekly until a meeting date and time have been arranged. Be patient. It can sometimes take a few weeks to get a meeting date confirmed.
- Although the goal is to speak to the Congresspeople in person, don’t be disappointed if you are only able to speak to a staff person. Starting a dialog with a staff person is often just as productive as meeting with the actual Congressperson. They often have more time to commit to an issue.
- Confirmation Call: Call the congressional office a day or two in advance of the meeting to confirm the appointment.
- Do your homework: Make sure you know your subject and bring appropriate handouts, displays, or PowerPoint presentations. Also, find out how the Vision may be beneficial to that Congressional district (companies, universities, etc.).
- Try to have between 2-5 people in attendance at these meetings. This will not only show the Congresspeople that this isn’t a one-person effort, but will provide a much larger pool of knowledge to draw from. However: You must designate a lead person. Otherwise, you risk talking over each other or worse, talking over the staffers and/or Congressperson.
At the Meeting
- Dress Appropriately: Business attire (suit and tie, etc) should be worn to these meetings. First impressions really do matter.
- Be Prompt: Try to reach the congressional office 10-15 minutes early (enter their office about 5 minutes prior to the scheduled meeting). These are busy people and don’t have time to wait around for you. If you are unavoidably late, call the congressional office to tell them why you are late (Example: I got stuck in a traffic jam). Arriving early (outside) will also give you time to make sure you all know your roles and the overall game plan.
- Be courteous: Try not to cut off the person you are meeting with and don’t be patronizing if they don’t agree with you.
- Be honest: If you don’t know the answer to a question, do not make one up. Tell them that you do not know the answer, but can follow-up with them once you have gotten an answer.
- Be Cognizant of how much time you have left: If you are only allotted 15 minutes, don’t try to get 30 minutes worth of information in that 15 minutes. They don’t want to hear auctioneers.
- Ask how you can be helpful to the legislator.
- Thank them for their time and interest. Leave your contact information behind.
After the Visit
- Send a thank you letter, briefly reiterating the topics discussed during the meeting. No letter should exceed one page unless there is there is a good reason to do.
- Follow-up: If you agreed to follow-up regarding a question or if you agreed to provide some additional information, do so promptly. Do not agree to anything that you cannot follow up on.
- Fill out a debriefing form while the meeting is fresh in your mind. If you have any questions, please e-mail Chris Carberry, cacarberry AT yahoo.com. We will reply promptly.