Visiting your legislator connects the issue you care about to the people your legislator was selected to serve. While less convenient than using email, social media, or calling by phone, it is by far the most effective means of conveying your message.

The more personal the interaction you have with your legislators, the more attention your request will receive, and nothing is more personal than an face-to-face meeting. In a recent survey, 77 percent of congressional staffers said that an in-person visit carried the most weight in terms of delivering a constituent message. Visiting your legislators may sound intimidating, but remember: their offices are open to the public; they are elected to work for you; and they need to hear your story and opinions in order to vote on issues that will benefit the communities that they serve.

Building a positive face-to-face relationship requires that you to plan ahead. If you would like to visit your legislator, you may want to consider contacting your children’s hospital government relations department to ensure that your efforts and messages are coordinated.

Please note that legislators often can’t control their calendars and frequently ask their staff to handle meetings with constituents. These meetings are just as effective; the staff member will relay your concerns and comments to the legislator, and will frequently advise them on how to proceed.

Prepare for your visit

  • Make an appointment in advance. Expect to get about 15 minutes with your legislator or their staff, but be prepared to deliver your message in as little as 90 seconds.

    An example of a good introduction/90-second speech:

    “Hi, I’m Chuck Jenkins. I am a constituent of yours and I am here to talk with you about health care coverage for children. I am asking you to vote yes on H.R. 1234, which reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CHIP provides health insurance to children who do not qualify for Medicaid and can’t afford to purchase private insurance. Here’s a sheet with some more information. My phone number and email address are included if you have any questions. Thank you for your time today.”
  • Be on time.
  • Be prepared by knowing where your legislator stands on the issue by doing some research on his or her website. You can also contact the Children’s Hospital Association at [email protected] to get your legislators’ voting history.
  • The Children’s Hospital Association frequently posts fact sheets on its website;download the relevant fact sheets to share with your legislators and their staff.
  • Use this meeting to explain how the bill or issue will affect you personally, as well as other voters in your district or state.
  • Dress in business attire for an appointment with your legislator.

During your visit

  • Firstly, summarize in a 90-second speech who you are and why you are meeting with the legislator by doing the following:
    • Identify yourself as a constituent
    • Identify your relationship to your children’s hospital (if any)
    • Highlight the issue you came to discuss
    • Be specific about the action you want taken
  • Make the ask. You can’t know if the legislator will support (or oppose) a given piece of legislation if you don’t ask.
  • Stick to the issue and avoid political attacks on your legislator or staff (or even his opposition).
  • Share a personal story by providing context for why you care about the issue.
  • Before leaving, ask how you can be of help on this issue. Position yourself as a resource.
  • Give your legislator or staff the fact sheet on your issue and briefly highlight your points.
  • Thank the legislator or staffer for his time.

After your visit

Follow up with a thank you letter or email and include any information that was requested by the legislator. This will strengthen your relationship and leave a positive impression with the legislator’s office.

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