Contacting Your Congressional Office

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Advocacy Resource | April 26, 2011

Files: PDF | 87 KB | 2 pages

Sharing your opinion with a congressional offices can seem like a daunting task. However, it’s their job to hear what you – as a constituent – need. This brief outlines who to contact in the office of your Member of Congress (Member) and how to get your message across by phone or email.

Who to Contact in Your Member's Office

In most congressional offices, only one or two people work on each issue, so it is best to get directly in touch with the correct person. You should try to directly contact the staff person who handles the relevant issue (e.g. housing, children/youth issues, veterans, etc.). To find out who the correct person is:

  • Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected with your Member’s office. Alternatively, you may call the office directly; numbers for the Washington, DC offices can be found on the Members’ websites.
  • After you reach the office, ask who works on the issue about which you are calling. Most often, if you are calling in regard to homelessness assistance programs or issues surrounding low-income housing, you should ask who handles housing; if you are calling in regard to youth homelessness, you might ask who handles youth/children’s issues.
  • Make sure you record the staff person’s name and check that you have the correct spelling.

Calling Your Member's Congressional Office

When you call your Member’s office to relay information about homelessness in your district and to make a specific “ask” about a certain piece of legislation, you may run into a few different scenarios.

Speaking with the Staff Person

Ideally, when you call your congressional office, you will speak to the person responsible for the issue about which you are calling. This individual will have the most knowledge of the issue and familiarity with any relevant programs. Generally, congressional office calls are answered by the front desk. Simply ask to be connected to the staff person who handles the issues about which you are calling. Be sure to get the name of the staff person to whom you are about to speak.

When speaking directly with this person, use the talking points the Alliance has provided, or use your own. Make sure to convey your bottom line “ask” to the staff person and, if you don’t receive a definitive answer, ask when you can follow up by phone or email. Remember that staff members can be very busy, so be as concise as possible, but also be prepared for questions.

If you leave a voicemail for the staff person, you can mention that you will follow up soon to discuss the issue in more detail.

Speaking with the Front Desk

Sometimes, the front desk may be unable to transfer your call directly to the appropriate staff person because that individual is unavailable. In this instance, try to find out the name of the person who handles your issue and a better time to call back. It is always a good idea to make sure the office has a record of your call and your concerns, so leave a message with the front desk.

A great example of a brief message might be something like: “My name is Jane Doe from Districtville and I’m leaving a message for the staff person that deals with housing. I’d like to urge Representative Joe Schmoe to support a $2.4 billion funding level for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. I’d love to talk further with the appropriate staff person on how this program is making an impact in my community and why this funding level is so important for our district’s efforts to end homelessness. I can be reached at 202-555-1234 or email@email.org.”

Automated Message

If you call the main number for an office and receive the automated message, listen for an option (for example, by pressing “1”) to reach a staff person, as this is deal. If the office only has an automated answering machine or voicemail option, leave a message.

  • When leaving a message, try to be as clear and concise as possible. Mention that you are leaving a message for the staff person who handles your issue and then state your specific ask in just a few sentences. You can use the example message above as a guide.

Emailing a Congressional Staff Person

Most congressional offices will not give out email addresses for their staff; however, the Alliance can help you find out the person’s email address if you know their name (see “Who to Contact” above).

When emailing a staff person for the first time, remember to be formal and concise. Each staff person receives numerous emails each day on a variety of matters, so you must ensure that you get to your point as soon as possible in the email. Make sure to include lots of relevant information, including local data, and/or short local anecdotes. Alternatively, you can attach reports and/or news clips, or link to relevant information and provide a very brief summary of the key findings.

No matter how you choose to set up your email, make sure that your specific ask is clearly stated in the email. Be clear about what you would like the Member of Congress to do and how you can be reached if the staff person or Member has any follow up questions. Let the staff person know that you will be following up to ensure receipt of your email.

The Alliance Can Help!

In these situations or others, the Alliance can help! If you have any questions or concerns about contacting your Members’ offices, let us know! We are here to answer your questions and help you every step of the way!