Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Congress: Coming Today to a Neighborhood Near You!

Well, it's quiet in DC this week, but that doesn't mean the policy work isn't happening! In fact, this week is the Memorial Day District Work Period, and members of Congress and many of their DC staff are in their legislative districts and states looking for feedback from their constituents.

Following are a few tips for providing that feedback in a meaningful way (I mean, beyond "stop being such an idiot"):
  • Find out about townhall meetings: Most elected officials are holding townhall meetings over the next few days. These are open to the public and are often held at local civic institutions, such as a library, school auditorium or city hall. Call their offices (you can find numbers at www.congress.org), ask when and where the next meeting is -- and attend! You'll be surprised at how few people actually show up -- and how much personalized attention you can get.
  • Craft a personalized, thoughtful, relevant message: What messages meet this criteria? Specifically messages that explain how you personally are impacted by a policy issue (personalized), relate to the elected official's constituents (relevant) and don't contain any swear words (thoughtful) -- not one. You'll also want to do your best to ask for something specific, such as asking the official to cosponsor a specific piece of legislation, support funding for a certain program or even just agree to have a more in-depth meeting on a policy issue.
  • Learn about your legislators: If you want to influence policy makers, you need to know a little about them. Spend some time over the next week looking up bills they've introduced at www.congress.gov and reviewing their webpages at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov. You might be surprised at what you find -- they may already be on your side!
More ideas and resources at www.advocacyguru.com/resources.htm

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