What’s It Like to Meet With Your Member of Congress?
NCTC members from across the country will be meeting with their Representatives and Senators this summer to advocate on behalf of low- and moderate-income families. Improvements to the EITC and Child Tax Credit, among other things, will expire without action, so now’s the time to act!
But if you’re a first-time advocate, you may not know what to expect. We asked Josephine Milfort of Newark Now about her experience meeting with her members of Congress earlier in the year.
Who did you meet with?
At the congressional meeting I met with U.S. Representative Pascrell staffer (Authur Mandell); Senator Lautenberg representative (Kyle Brown); Senator Menendez representative (Ashley McCabe); Congressman Sires representative (Miriel Lim).
What did you do to prepare for the meeting?
To prepare for this meeting my organization Newark Now, National Community Tax Coalition, as well as myself drafted several documents depicting our accomplishments. We outlined straight forward request based on what works, and doesn’t work; the data were specific, local examples regarding our request. We presented statistics supporting our needs for what we were requesting the member of Congress to do. We used the media to broadcast comments send to members, so it’s not just disappearing into the black box of a Congressional office.
How did the meeting go? What did you talk about?
An advocate must definitely expect meeting to last anything from 10 to 20 minutes at most. So the message had to be clear and to the point. We even met with a staffer in the hallway because their rooms were all occupied. Understand congressional staffer may not be experts and our points were better delivered using generalities. They were mainly interested in our organization accomplishments in communities. So our conversation covered the various services we offered, testimonials from clients, concrete numbers of residents helped. It was imperative that our request was understood and remembered at the end of the meeting.
Any advice for first-time advocates?
For new advocate I would say be confident; prepare accordingly before the meeting (documents, key points, accomplishments, issues); find out which way member is leaning on your key issues and previous matters; follow instructions if you are working with a team; ask experts questions on what to do, not to do, and what to expect; think as if you were the instructor; expect that congress representatives views might counter yours, be prepared for perhaps a debate to at the very least lessen their opposition.
Thanks to Josephine for taking part and for everyone who’s already signed up to meet with their members of Congress this summer!
By Dan Fair, Manager of Communications & Member Relations