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Tips on Conducting Hill Visits

The Cardinal Rule in Advocacy:  "Advocacy is about Relationships!" Don't think of this as just a lobbying visit; think about it as the beginning of a working relationship with your Member's office.

Tip #1 - Be prepared

  • If you are going with a group, decide which of you is going to take the lead and then which points others in the group will make.

  • Decide upon 3 key points (3 points maximum) that you want the person to remember when you leave.

  • Review and rehearse the key talking points you want to make.

  • No matter how the conversation develops or what questions are asked, try to bridge your answer back to make an argument for one of your 3 key points.

  • A nice tip for starting on the right foot: Think of something positive to thank the Member of Congress for. For example, you can thank them for voting right on something or for a supportive statement they recently made.

Tip #2 - Be mindful of time

  • Always be on time

  • Be concise: Average Hill visits last about 20 minutes.

    1. Remind them of who you are, the program you represent, and that you are a constituent

    2. State the issue

    3. Make your case

    4. Tell them what you want them to do or what your concerns are

    5. Thank them for taking time to meet with you

Tip #3 - Be Memorable

  • Don't forget to hammer on those key points that you decided to make.

  • Leave the staff person with useful materials.

  • Good things to leave are:

1.      A recent letter you've written to the Member's office

2.      Copies of your talking points

3.      State or locally specific data

4.      A newspaper article or a study that backs up your case

5.      The executive summary of your annual report

Tip #4 - Be Appreciative!

  • Don't be surprised or get upset if your meeting is with a very young and junior-level staffer.

    1. Turnover on the Hill is high, so you could be meeting next year's Legislative Director or Chief of Staff.

    2. Junior lever staff are often more accessible and better able to respond to you when you need things in the future.

  • Always send a thank you note.

Tip #5 - Be Engaging

  • Be inquisitive: It is okay to ask questions about where the Member stands on an issue, but be tolerant of differing points of view.

  • Be responsive

    1. Try to answer questions that the staffer asks, but if you do not know the answer, just say you don't know, but you'll find out and get back to them.

    2. Remember, when you are answering questions to try to bring your answer back to one of your 3 or few key points.

Tip #6 - Follow up

  • Before you go, be sure to get a card from the staffer and that it has their fax number and email address. If their card does not include the fax and email address, ask for it.

  • Always send a thank you letter. The best way to send correspondence to the Hill is to FAX the letter to the staff person's attention. Mail takes a long time to get screened and sometimes never gets there.

  • In your letter, reiterate the points you made during the meeting.

  • Include any materials you promised to get them and answer any questions you said you would find out about.

Tip #7 - Be a Resource

  • Remember that you are an asset in your community because you know where the rubber hits the road.

  • You shouldn't only call when you need something.

  • Check in from time to time (Once a month is a good goal) with the staff people in your Members' district, state, and Washington offices.

  • Reasons to reconnect are:

    1. To provide or get an update on an issue you discussed

    2. Discuss how a current news event will affect your program

    3. Inform them of a new component being added to your program

    4. To tell them about a new resource or study that is available that may be useful to the staff person.