Here are some simple guidelines to remember to increase your chances of gaining participation:
- Call your Members’ office. Look up the number of their Washington office at www.whoismyrepresentative.com. The purpose of this call is not to invite the Member, but rather to determine the proper protocol for inviting him/her. When you call, identify yourself briefly to the staff person who answers and ask what the best way is to invite your Member to an event (they may have different schedulers in D.C. and in their home state). More than likely, they will tell you to fax a letter to the Member’s scheduler. Make sure you that get the fax number and the name of the scheduler, as these details are often not widely available.
- Write your invitation letter. (A sample letter is provided below) Include as much information about your event as can fit on one page. Mention that you’re only asking the Representative to join you for your church service.
Follow up. There are two basic ways you can follow up with your Member’s office.
- Schedulers – Schedulers for Members of Congress are some of the busiest and hardest working people in Washington D.C., and have to keep track of many requests like these. You should not expect to hear back from the scheduler within the first few days, but if you have not heard back within a week, feel free to make a follow up call. Ask if the scheduler has any questions about the invitation or can be helpful in any way.
- Personal contacts – If you or anyone on your host committee knows anyone who works in the Member’s office, make sure to e-mail them a copy of the letter and ask them to do what they can to make this happen.
If the Member declines your invitation, don’t be discouraged, and don’t cancel your plans! The goal is to have a member of Congress or their staff attend so oftentimes, until you develop a relationship with the Member of Congress you might see a lot of their staff. That can be influential too so be sure and build relationships with whoever shows up!
If your Member accepts, it’s time to get the ball rolling with publicity. Get in touch with their press team to coordinate your media work with them. If you haven’t already been in conversation with the Member’s staff member who handles immigration issues, you should contact him or her. This can be one of the most fun and rewarding parts of planning your event.