By Mary-Lynn Bender, AACOM Interim Vice President of Government and Public Relations
According to data from the Congressional Management Foundation, Members of Congress place real value on attending district and state events, citing these as the most effective way to gain an understanding of constituent views and opinions.
August recess offers ED to MED advocates a great opportunity to connect with Members of Congress while they are back in their districts and states. Below are some helpful tips to consider if you are planning an event that you’d like your legislator to attend, and suggestions for other ways to get involved in advocacy this summer.
Inviting your Member of Congress to an Event
Members of Congress welcome the opportunity to connect with their constituents. District and state meetings and events help them learn their constituents’ views on pending issues and legislation, develop new policy ideas, and gain visibility among voters.
However, even during August recess, Members of Congress have intense demands on their time. When you invite your Member to attend an event, make sure that you are providing all requested information and are as organized and detailed as possible. Filling out all requested information and answering all follow-up questions from congressional schedulers will increase the likelihood of your Member’s attendance.
What Determines a Member’s Attendance?
Ask yourself these questions before inviting your Member to your event:
1. How many constituents will attend?
Members are more likely to attend events allowing them to connect with more constituents. Ideally, you should aim to have between 10 – 20 people at your event for it to be considered by congressional staff. Make sure you communicate who will be attending, especially if you plan on inviting media.
2. Does my event give my Member of Congress the chance to advance his or her strategic goals, and does the event align with my Member’s policy interests?
Checking Members’ websites and learning what congressional committees they are on and what caucuses they’ve joined are great ways to determine which issues they prioritize. Make sure your event would be valuable for your Member to attend.
3. Does your event have a purpose?
Unless you are meeting with a freshman Member of Congress to build a relationship, make sure you have a specific reason for your event. Use the opportunity to communicate a legislative ask or discuss your views on a policy issue.
4. How long is my event?
Members of Congress prefer to schedule events lasting between 30 and 60 minutes, so it is helpful to try to schedule your event within this window. Members may decide to stay longer than planned, but with their busy schedules, if you request more of their time, they may be more likely to decline.
5. How far in advance should I schedule my meeting?
The type of event you are planning will determine how soon in advance you need to submit your invitation. Larger events, such as town halls, festivals, or rallies, will require more time to schedule. Allowing four weeks to schedule most district events, such as meetings, site visits, or conferences, is a good rule of thumb.
Town Hall Meetings
Even if you aren’t planning on hosting an event this summer, there are other ways to make sure you are engaging in advocacy opportunities, such as calling in to telephone town halls or attending town hall meetings in your district or state. Bringing two or three people with you to in-person town hall events can make a big impact. When multiple people speak out about the same issue, it helps bring attention to a cause. Identifying yourselves as ED to MED advocates will give Members context for your position and help increase your influence.
Signing up for your Members’ newsletters can help you stay informed about upcoming town hall events, while the ED to MED website, blog, and AACOM GR’s Washington Insider are all great resources to keep you informed leading up to town halls or other advocacy opportunities. You can also reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you have before advocacy events.
The most effective way to influence a lawmaker is for a constituent to put a face to an issue. Whether you plan on inviting your Member of Congress to an event, participating in a town hall, or sharing your personal story in our ED to MED blog, make sure to take time this summer to let your Members of Congress know how the policy issues they are negotiating affect you, your patients, and your community. As ED to MED advocates, you are among the most important representatives when it comes to helping Congress understand the implications of health and higher education policy. Help increase our reach by encouraging a friend or colleague to join ED to MED today!