This post was written by Rachel Finn, from the Enough Project. STAND and the Enough Project are co-hosting an online workshop on lobbying for the Sudan, Peace, Security and Accountability Act (H.R. 1692) this Wednesday at 8pm (eastern) as part of our Stand for Sudan campaign.
One of the best ways to have a voice on U.S. policy is through a face-to-face meeting with an elected official. An in-district meeting with staff members of one’s Representative is a really important step, and one of the most effective, that can be taken to move H.R. 1692, the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2013 forward.
Lobbying your elected officials can have a real impact. In Alabama, for example, a September meeting with an activist helped Congressman Bachus, a previous advocate for Sudan unaware of the new legislation, become a cosponsor of H.R. 1692 just five days after the meeting.
While it’s completely natural to be nervous about meeting with a Member of Congress, it’s important to keep in mind that it is their job to meet with you and represent your interests. An in-person meeting is at its core just a conversation, and not something that needs to be very intimidating. The short term goal of such a meeting is to get the elected official to take action on the ask you present and to educate the representative, while the long term goal is to develop a relationship with the office.
If you offer yourself and your chapter as a resource that can make their job easier, STAND can have a lot of influence in the future. Even as a college student who may be leaving in a year or two, developing a strong relationship between your STAND chapter and the office is an important legacy to pass on to future students and will enable this to remain a priority in the town where you went to school long after you graduate.
A meeting with the staff of a Representative on H.R. 1692 would typically be structured as:
- Introductions of yourselves and groups to which you are connected.
- Thank the staff member for their time, and for the Member of Congress’ past support on any relevant issues such as Sudan, mass atrocities, or human rights.
- Someone in the group shares his or her personal story explaining his or her connection to the issue and why it is important.
- One or two group members will give a (very brief) overview of the conflicts in Sudan and what the current situation is. It might be a good idea to begin by asking the staffer how knowledgeable he/she is on Sudan and proceed from there.
- Make the ask- Urge the Representative to cosponsor and support H.R. 1692, and/or ask their colleagues in the House to do the same.
- Thank the staff member again for his or her time, and set a date to follow up.
To help you along the way, keep in mind the following points:
- Inform yourselves. Read and understand the bill, brush up on the legislative process, read these FAQs, and get up to date on the renewed violence.
- Go prepared. Write out a script (or customize a version available online) and divide up the talking points ahead of time. Print out one-pagers such as those here to leave behind with the staff. Here’s a helpful step-by-step guide of how to set up a meet and make sure you’re ready!
- Do your research. Know the Representative’s history of support for these issues, what their motivations might be for cosponsorship (moral? national security/practical? etc.), some of their
- personal background (i.e. hometown and alma mater, in case there are any connections), and any relevant committees on which they sit.
- Act professionally. Be on time, be polite, and dress appropriately.
- Keep it short. Plan for only about 15 minutes, and be flexible if the staff has less or more time to give you.
- Identify yourselves. The more influential you demonstrate yourself to be (through connections in the area such as family or school, and national reputation as STAND), the more likely it is that the Representative will take action on H.R. 1692. Telling that short story about yourself makes the conversation more personal, relatable, and helps to build a relationship.
- Ask for a firm commitment. Ask if they plan to cosponsor H.R. 1692. If yes, thank them, if no or unsure, ask if they need additional information to help them decide. Ask when you can follow up (and by phone or email) should be no more than one or two weeks later.
- Follow up. It is the most important part of the meeting.
On December 4th, I’ll be discussing these and other key tips for preparing for, having, and following up on an in-district meeting. Be sure to join us for the online workshop at 8pm EST to get excited about moving H.R. 1692 through Congress!
These tools should ensure you will be ready to lead the conversation on Sudan during your meeting. We are also always available for you to contact if you need help along the way or have any questions about scheduling a meeting.