Reasons to reach out to your legislators. As their constituent, your public officials want to hear from you. Scheduling a visit in their local office is an easy first step. Use the meeting to introduce yourself as someone living in their district. Share your story and talk about issues that are impacting you. It can be casual and brief. Then you can start to build an individual relationship with your legislators and key decision makers. By simply reaching out, you can advance MS issues.
Ideal times to visit. You can (and should) communicate with your federal, state, or community officials at any time through their district office. Many state legislators hold regular office hours, inviting their constituents to stop by. During a recess or work period, federal and state legislators often host town halls or listening sessions in their districts. Feel free to stand up and ask question. If the legislator is not available in the office, speaking with staff at any time can be just as effective.
Calling to schedule a visit. We recommend scheduling an in-person meeting with the legislator in the office. Be sure to call and schedule your meeting in advance, as offices are not always fully staffed. It is best set up the meeting at least two to three weeks prior to when you’d like to visit. Read more tips and sample scheduling call script here.
When you visit. Be prepared. Practice what you want to say beforehand. Consider bringing a camera to take photos, even if you are meeting with staff.
Share your personal story. The best way to start a conversation with your public official is to simply share your story. You are the expert on your story and how issues impact your life. But if you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s OK to follow up later. Click here for more tips on how to start a conversation & share your personal story.
When you leave. Be sure to provide a packet of information and include your business card. Some chapters have MS activist business cards, with a space to write in your personal information. Check with your chapter materials that could be included in a packet that you leave behind, including…
- A personalized letter to the legislator. This will serve as a quick reference for the office about your personal story and your top issues. See tips and template letters below.
- A position paper on each issue or piece of legislation with bill numbers, including the Society’s position and why. Ask your chapter about any hot issues and position paper examples.
- A background document on the Society and/or the chapter, explaining who we are and what we do. Your chapter can provide an advocacy brochure, a copy of the National Health Care Reform Principles, Just the Facts brochure, or Society Vision document for this purpose.
- A story page or story card that summarizes your personal story on one page.
After the visit. Follow up with a thank you note or a call. See tips and sample follow-up call script below. Tell your chapter how it went. Fill out the form below and send to your chapter (link coming soon!)That way we can track progress and continue to build those relationships. You also can send photos of your visit to the chapter for promotion opportunities.
Build the relationship. You can continue to build the relationship, by extending your conversation with the legislator. Send letters or postcards as issues develop or your story changes. Call if you’re concerned about another issue. Or invite them to your self-help group, to visit the chapter, to join your walk or bike team, or to another event. You can do this any time throughout the year. When a legislator receives five or six constituent contacts about an issue, it elevates that issue and can really create change.