Remember that your Member of Congress is there to represent your state and community. If you’re meeting with staff, keep in mind that they are there to help keep the Member informed.
Before the Call or Meeting
- Familiarize yourself with the Member, their bio, congressional committee assignments, and things you may have in common with them.
- Familiarize yourself with their legislative record on your issue so you can thank them for their support.
- Scan their press releases and look for any statements on child care before getting on the call.
- If you’re familiar with your state’s delegation, look up if any Congressional members within the state have taken a strong stance on child care. Sometimes this can help nudge a member to sign on to a letter or be supportive of an issue.
- Familiarize yourself with your talking points. You will have them with you as a prompt, but try to avoid reading from them if possible.
- Plan to join the conference call promptly if speaking on the phone. Plan to arrive a few minutes early if you’re meeting in person. If you are running late, be sure to send an email or call the staff you are meeting with.
During Your Call or Meeting
- Thank the Member of Congress and/or staff for the meeting or call.
- Introduce yourself and all others in the group. Share your connection to the Member’s district and/or the state.
- Give a quick background about you or your organization and how you connect to the child care system (i.e., are you a parent, child care provider, or Child Care Resource & Referral staff?). Parents and providers can share their personal experiences regarding child care. Child Care Resource & Referral staff can share more about the role these agencies play in the child care system.
- Share any materials you want to leave with the Member and/or staff. A one-page summary of your organization, the issues you plan to discuss, and the policy ask are great information in include. Ensure your contact information is included or staple a business card to the one-pager.
- Don’t assume they are an expert in your issue. You are the expert. Make it easy for them. Avoid unnecessary acronyms or confusing detail that make them feel uninformed.
- Stay on message. Members and their staff are working on addressing a myriad of COVID-19 related issues, so focus on specific issues and not vague goals.
- Personalize the conversation by sharing your experience, or the experiences of parents and providers, as well as any challenges regarding child care in your community. Relating a specific incident or story puts a face on the issue you are discussing so it “sticks” with the member or staff.
- Back up your stories with facts and figures found in the shared resources.
- Emphasize the needs around child care in your community or your state.
- Find common ground and ask questions that promote dialogue.
Wrapping Up Your Meeting
- Prepare a two-minute elevator pitch in case your meeting is cut unexpectedly short. This is your quick pitch that summarizes your most important talking points and overall request, or your direct ask.
- Make sure you ask for what you want. Make a specific request and let them know you will be following up with them on it. This is true whether you are educating the legislator on child care in your community or advocating for a specific policy. Your ask can be for an opportunity to follow-up, to schedule a site visit or support for a piece of legislation.
- Saying “I’m not sure, let me find out and get back to you” can be a smart political move. You don’t need to be an expert on every topic you are asked about. Following up gives you the chance to contact them again about the issue and continue to build the relationship.
- Let them know you can be a source of information and that you want to be helpful to them in any way possible.
- Be sure that you share your contact information with those in the meeting before the meeting ends.
After the Visit
- Complete the feedback form while your impressions of the call or meeting are still fresh.
- Send a thank-you note (e-mail is great for this!) to everyone you met with and remind them why they should support increased funding now to support child care during the COVID-19 emergency as well as increased funding for the long-term rebuilding of the system.
- Follow up on any requests made during the call or meeting.
- Remember that this meeting is just one part of the long-term strategy to build a relationship with your legislator and gain support for quality child care.
- Provide them with any updated publications, data and reports.
- Suggest the Member of Congress visit your program when they are in town.