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Advocacy How-To: How Do I Contact Members of Congress?
June 9, 2011
Our “Advocacy How-To” series provides tips, tools, and strategies to conduct your own advocacy and get involved in Alliance advocacy campaigns. Today’s post is from our Director of Policy Outreach, Amanda Krusemark.
So, you want to get involved in federal advocacy. But who, exactly, should you contact? Which Members of Congress are most important? Who should you talk to in their offices? Today, we’re going to answer these questions.
Members of Congress are most interested in hearing from their own constituents, so you should generally only contact Members who represent your community.
- If you’re not sure who your representatives are, visit www.house.gov and type your zip code into the box labeled “FIND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE.”
- You can find your senators at www.senate.gov. Just choose your state from the box labeled “Find Your Senators.”
Once you know who represents you in Congress, you might wonder which Member (or Members) is most important for your cause.
Congress does most of its legislative work through committees so you should find out on which committees your Members of Congress sit. (Members’ websites usually have this information, or we can help.) Depending on the issue, there are several committees that could be important. For example, the most important committee for funding HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants is the Appropriations Committee.
Representatives and senators in charge of these key committees (the Chair and Ranking Member) are the most important, followed by committee members. However, any Member of Congress can ask their colleagues on these committees to take action.
Once you’ve figured out which congressional office to contact, the next step is finding the appropriate staff person in your congressperson’s office. Each staff member is usually assigned a portfolio of subjects like housing, health care, immigration, national security, etc. Find out who handles your issue on behalf of the Member of Congress. For most issues related to homelessness, that is the person who handles housing issues. Sometimes, though, you might want the person who handles (for example) health or youth issues.
It’s that staffer who will be able to advise your Member of Congress on key legislation, appropriations, and other legislative action on your topic of interest.
Next week, we’ll explore how to get in touch with these individuals and what to say. For now, though, just remember that it’s easy to find out who your Members of Congress are and their committee assignments. That information will go a long way toward making you an effective advocate.
Photo courtesy of Senator Mark Warner.