One of the most effective ways to influence your elected official is to make a personal visit. A direct conversation--whether with your legislators or their staff--enables you to establish a real relationship. You can share your support for the issues and programs as well as support increased funding for UN Women.
Not in Washington DC?
Meeting with Members of Congress does not just happen in Washington DC. All members of Congress have offices in their home state or district. Constituent visits to the home offices are valued. They will be reported to the Washington DC office and will help raise the visibility of the issues you discuss in both offices. Summer recess (August) and other, shorter recess periods are great times to try meeting directly with your elected official. You do not have to be a professional lobbyist to visit your Members of Congress. Your concerns expressed simply and sincerely, can be very persuasive. Above all, what counts is being a constituent with a vote.
Before the Meeting
• Choose your issue. Talk to them about UN WOMEN, ending violence against women, programs within your USNC chapter, or about increasing funding for UN WOMEN.
• Choose your team. Assemble a small group that represents the diversity of your community and is interested and knowledgeable about your issue. A group can demonstrate the breadth of support for your position.
• Schedule an appointment. Go to www.house.gov or www.senate.gov to find phone numbers for Washington DC offices and local offices for Members of Congress.
• Choose roles. Meet with your team members ahead of time to discuss your approach to the issue. Then, designate one person to lead the discussion in your lobby meeting and another to take notes. Decide who will handle each point so you cover everything from the introductions to the political issues. If you need help on anything, please contact your chapter advocacy person, chapter President, or the USNC Program Office at
During the Meeting
• Make sure you have clear directions
- Be on time
- Be positive, constructive, friendly, and brief
- Relax—remember that you have an advantage in this meeting in that you are a voter
• Discussing your issue
- Clearly articulate the purpose of your visit
- Be concise when you present your position
- Ask questions about it
- Allow plenty of opportunity for listening to your legislator or their staff’s views and concerns. Listen closely to what he or she says—there may be hints that will enable you to follow up with resources. And, even if your legislator is not won over to your position on this issue, she or he might be supportive on another issue.
- Leave printed material that summarizes the points you made or provides additional background information on your concern. USNC for UN Women provides materials on our issues on the web site.
- You don’t need to know everything. Many people are put off by the idea of meeting with their Member of Congress because they do not feel like an expert on a given issue. As long as you have the basics down, simply be honest when there is something you do not know, and offer to send the information after the meeting.
• Asking for a specific action
- Discussing an issue is important, but the goal is action. Be ready with a concrete request. Some examples: “Senator, will you introduce this bill?” “Will you support more funding for UN WOMEN in the next budget?” or (to a congressional staff member) “We would like your boss to co-sponsor this bill.”
- Promise to follow up. Say when and how you will be in touch to follow up on your request. (Example: “I will call your staff next week to follow up.”)
After the Meeting
• As soon as possible after the meeting, ideally immediately, your chapter or team should spend time debriefing. Take notes to help with future work with your legislator.
• Follow up with a thank-you letter, recapping your key points and adding any additional information.
• Plan other ways to work with this office on your issue, such as generating letters and calls from other constituents.