How to Talk with a Member of Congress (or the Staff)

The following are several points that would be helpful as you cultivate relationships with your members of Congress both in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. 

Call the Capitol Hill office rather than their district office. (but also call the district office if the Capitol Hill office staff says the Member will be local at a particular time and you can set up a meeting in person)

When calling your Senator or Representative’s Washington, D.C., office, you’ll speak with a member of their staff. Don’t expect to speak personally with your Senator or Representative.

Congressional staff work long hours—10 to 12 hour days are not uncommon—and have many demands and pressures on their time. Take the time before you call to craft a concise and compelling message.

Note on Staff:  Respect staff and do not disdain a staffer who is far younger than you.  They are the future of Capitol Hill and it is not uncommon for a junior level staffer to work their way up in a relatively short time to a senior position.  While it may difficult to visit with a Member of Congress at times, the staffer will generally brief the Representative / Senator in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner. 

Contacting Congress

U.S. House of Representatives:
* Telephone:  202-225-3121
* Website: 

U.S. Senate:
* Telephone:  202-224-3121
* Website:

Find your member of Congress and contact him or her:
Contact your Representative:
Contact your Senator:

Four Essential Tips for Calling Your Member of Congress


Know the issue you wish to discuss, your goal or the action you want the legislator to take. Before calling, have your message written in front of you and review it carefully so you know exactly what you want to say. Include a few compelling facts to convince them to take action.

Identify Yourself & Ask for a Legislative Assistant

Identify yourself as a constituent. Briefly state your title and position if relevant.  Ask to speak with the legislative assistant responsible for the issue.

Keep the message simple and concise

A good model to follow is:

  • State the issue
  • Support with facts
  • State your goal: (such as asking the legislator’s support for a bill).
  • Be courteous.
  • Avoid emotional arguments, personal attacks, threats of political influence or demands.  Thank the staffer for taking your call and let him or her know how you will follow up.

Best Case Practices for Advocacy

  • Email your topic(s) in advance of a meeting with a staffer or legislator so they can adequately prepare ahead of time.
  • Avoid getting a meeting simply by walking into the office (or even just by calling).  Put the original request in written format – preferably an email.
  • Stick to one or two topics in any given meeting, rather than trying to cram in as many as you think time allows.  You’ll be taken more seriously if you are focused and able to prioritize.
  • Do not use the meeting time to discuss topics unrelated to the organization or field you are representing.  It may be tempting to mention your views on the most recent armed conflict or the latest free trade agreement while you’re there, but it won’t help.

Author: Dr. Joanne Lynn

Dr. Lynn is a geriatrician and hospice physician doing advocacy and research to improve eldercare. She encourages better financing models for long-term care and demonstration projects to improve eldercare in communities. Dr. Lynn has published over 300 peer-reviewed medical research and policy articles.

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