Strategies for Engaging Congress: Building a Long Term Relationship With a Congressional Office Hazel L. Weiss, M.A., M.S. Co-chair, National Shelter Plus Care Coalition Housing and Community Development Manager Alameda County Housing and Community Development Department 224 W. Winton Avenue, Room 108, Hayward, CA 94544 [email_address] (510) 670-5941 www.acgov.org/cda/hcd July 13, 2011
Building A Long Term Relationship With A Congressional Office
What does it look like?
How to get there
How to keep it going
It could look like this: Representative Fortney “Pete” Stark (D) California Advocacy Visit, Washington D.C. February 2003
Or this: Senator Barbara Boxer (D) California Hill Day July 2010
Q: What is it we are actually doing? A: Public Policy Advocacy
Public policy advocacy is the effort to influence public policy through various forms of persuasive communication. Public policy includes statements, policies, or prevailing practices imposed by those in authority to guide or control institutional, community, and sometimes individual behavior.
Optimal Health INFO Project,, “A” Frame for Advocacy, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USAID, Baltimore, MD, Available at http://info.k4health.org/pr/advocacy/index.shtml retrieved July 8, 2011
Q: Why are we doing it?
There is no better strategy for impacting federal policy than advocacy
Members of Congress are much more likely to focus on ending homelessness if they understand how it affects people and programs in their district. The more they hear from constituents about how programs are preventing and ending homelessness in their district, the more likely they are to act. It's up to us to convince our Members of Congress to take action! (Sound familiar?)
“ The cornerstone of successful advocacy is building relationships with policymakers, such as by calling, writing, and meeting with them, or inviting them to visit a local homelessness program.”
Available at http://www.endhomelessness.org/section/policy/advocacy , Retrieved July 7, 2011.
Creating a Relationship: How to get there
Get to know your member
Her/his policy and programmatic areas of interest and focus
Affiliations and Alliances
Do your homework!
The Member’s website is a gold mine of information
www.[Member last name].house.gov
www.[Senator last name].senate.gov
About the Senator
Issues and Legislation
Get on your Member’s mailing lists for notices from the D.C. and District Offices
Maintaining a Relationship: How to Keep it Going
Continuity Advocacy like communication is an ongoing process rather than a single policy or piece of legislation. Planning for continuity means articulating long-term goals, keeping functional coalitions together, and keeping data and arguments in tune with changing situations .
THANK YOU LETTERS
Weigh in on your issue /related issues
Thank you’s for
A press release
Provide updates on your issue (s)
Find ways to interact e.g. “Telephone Town Halls”
Using Everyday Communications to Build Congressional Relationships
THANK YOU’s What would, should, could I thank her for?
McKinney Approps Letter
HUD-VASH Appropriations Sign-on Letter
Homes for Heroes
Ending Veterans Homelessness
RHYA Appropriations Sign-on Letter
Full Year Continuing Appropriations
What else would, should, could I thank her for?
W hat issues are of personal interest to you? E.g. Multiple Sclerosis, Green buildings and technology, foster children
Q: Is your Member concerned about any of those issues?
A: Rep. Barbara Lee (D) 9 th District of California has a sister who has lived with MS for many years.
A: Green building and technology is a high priority for Rep. Jerry McNerney.
Face to Face
Face to face communication at
Formal meetings e.g. Hill day Visit
District events and activities
Town Hall Meetings
Member-sponsored holiday party
Special events e.g. “A conversation with Rep. Barbara Lee and Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, Dr. Robert Reich
Next Congress At Your Corner Hosted By McNerney To Be Held In Pleasanton
June 28, 2011
Pleasanton, CA – Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-11) today announced he will hold a Congress at Your Corner on Friday, July 1 st , from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the library in Pleasanton, located at 400 Old Bernal Avenue.
“ I’m firmly committed to being accessible to the people I represent,” said Rep. McNerney. “Over the past four years, I’ve held dozens of these events and always enjoy the opportunity to hear directly from the people I represent. I encourage people to come share their thoughts and ideas with me.”
Since taking office in 2007, Congressman McNerney has become known for holding Congress at Your Corner events at community locations such as libraries and coffee shops. Over the years, hundreds of people have attended these events to share their opinions and ask for assistance resolving issues with a federal agency. The event on Friday will mark the 65 th Congress at Your Corner hosted by Congressman McNerney.
At this Congress at Your Corner Rep. McNerney will meet with small groups of people in 30 minute segments based on the order in which they arrive .
Upcoming Congress at Your Corner time and location:
Friday, July 1, 2011 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Pleasanton Library 400 Old Bernal Avenue Pleasanton, CA 94566 Source: http://mcnerney.house.gov Retrieved July 8, 2011
Get to know the staffers!
Find out which staff works on your issue
Call and ask!
Find out who the Schedulers are in the D.C. and District offices
Keep up with staff turnover. (new staff need your expertise even more!
Invite staff for site visits too!
Stay in touch by
Email updates on your issue
Send relevant newspaper articles and press clippings
Call or write (fax or via email) with specific requests
Become the “Go To” person on your issue
Do your homework to create the relationship, don’t overlook the obvious!
Communicate frequently in writing and in person
Get to know the staffers
Become a valuable resource about your issue for your Member
Represent; yourself as a constituent, your agency, the local, and even the national constituency for your issue