Calling Your Members of Congress
One of the simplest and most effective ways you can advocate for youth is by calling your Members of Congress. Your Senators and Representative are elected to represent your views and need to hear your opinion about issues of importance to youth.
Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121 to connect with your Senators and Representatives.
Delivering Your Message
Identify yourself (your name, title, organization, and city).
Ask to speak with the Member of Congress. If he/she is not available, ask to speak with the legislative assistant handling youth issues.
Introduce yourself to the Member of Congress or the staff person.
Identify the issue and state the action you are requesting. For example, “Please support and co-sponsor the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act Reauthorization.”
State your position.
Be sure to include information about how the bill will impact your state and community. Present a compelling argument.
Answer questions. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you’ll get the answer for them shortly and do so!
Ask for their position on the legislation.
Thank them for their time and consideration.
Update the National Network of Youth. Relay any important information gathered during the phone call, including the Representative/Senator’s position on the issue. The National Network for Youth can use this information to further its, and your, advocacy efforts. Email information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visiting Your Members of Congress
Visiting your Senators and Representative in their district or Capitol Hill office is a great way to introduce them to your work and advocate for your position on a youth policy issue.
Setting Up a Visit
Members of Congress are typically in their home states Friday through Monday or during one of the congressional recess periods. During the middle of the week when Congress is in session, they are in Washington, D.C. To make an appointment to meet with a Member of Congress, call their appointment secretary/scheduler and give your name, organization and city, and the issue you wish to discuss. If there will be others in your community joining you for the visit, inform the scheduler-it may be easier to get an appointment for a group than an individual. You can reach the Capitol Hill office of any Member of Congress at 202.225.3121.
Before the Visit
Know the issue. Become familiar with the legislation you will discuss in your meeting. Use resources provided by the National Network for Youth to learn about the goals of the legislation. Read the legislation for specific information. Stay in touch with the National Network for Youth for the latest information about the legislation.
Plan your time. If you have more than one office to visit, schedule your visits with sufficient time to allow for meetings starting late and time to get from one office to the other. Do not arrive late. If you anticipate that you will be late, call ahead.
Invite others. Be sure that each visit includes both youth and adults. Board members, other staff, and others from your community also may be included in the meeting, as they will bring a different perspective to the discussion.
Keep your message simple. Plan your presentation to last only five minutes and no longer than 10 minutes. Do not expect Members of Congress or staff to spend more than 15 minutes with your group. Be sure to include information about the connections between your work and the issue. Ask others to do the same to show the many different ways the issue will impact your community.
Share responsibility. Have more than one person in your group speak during the presentation. Prior to your meeting, outline what you want to cover in your presentation and divide up roles and talking points. It is often helpful to choose who in your group will initiate and facilitate the meeting. Ensure that youth have an equal opportunity to speak during the meeting.
Be prepared. The Member of Congress will likely ask you questions about the issue and/or your organization’s work. Answer questions about who you are and what you have presented. If you do not answer the question, promise to find out and get back to them.
Bring handouts. A letter from your organization on the issue is good material to have on hand. You should also provide a brochure or a one-page description of your organization. You may also wish to give them a copy of the legislation and a fact sheet.
Writing Your Members of Congress
Writing letters to your Members of Congress enables you to express your thoughts on youth policy in a clear, orderly and persuasive manner. Members of Congress pay attention when their constituents take the time to write and express their passion about an issue. Letters to lawmakers should be in your own words and on your agency’s letterhead or with your address attached. Keep all letters to one page; only address one bill in a given letter.
Quick Tips for Letter Writing
Choose the right heading and greeting:
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510
Dear Senator Doe:
U. S House of Representatives
Washington DC 20515
Dear Representative Doe:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Identify yourself and simply state the purpose of your letter in the first paragraph (the issue, any bill number, and the action requested).
Give information about your organization and the work you do.
Provide reasons for your position on the legislation about which you are writing.
Talk about your personal experiences. Include information about how the bill will assist or harm young people in your state and community. Connect the work you do to the ways the legislation will impact youth.
Ask for your Member of Congress’ view on the legislation.
End the letter by thanking your Representative or Senator for their consideration of your views.
Express willingness to answer any questions or respond to any concerns they might have.
Fax the letter (email is discouraged and postal mail are discouraged).
Share a copy of any response you receive with the National Network for Youth by sending an email to email@example.com. The information is useful when the National Network policy staff meets with the staff of that Representative or Senator.