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Hosting your federal legislators gives them the chance to meet their elder constituents and learn more about your organization’s work for older adults. It also gives you the opportunity to become a "go-to” organization for policy makers when it comes to issues related to aging services.
This guide includes the resources you need to plan, promote and execute a successful congressional visit. It features an event timeline and sample resources that will help you make the most of this opportunity for your organization and the people you serve. Here are 4 important guidelines to keep in mind throughout the planning process:
If you are asking an elected official to be a part of your program, be prepared that you might not get an immediate commitment. Decide early whether or not you will accept a surrogate in place of the elected official and how long you can wait to get a commitment. Having a staff member represent the legislator at your organization gives you the opportunity to educate a policy leader.
If there are other LeadingAge members in the district, you may want to consider inviting them to co-sponsor the event. Co-sponsorship offers you the opportunity to share the responsibilities of planning the event and gives the member of Congress access to more constituents.
Send an Invitation LetterUse our sample invitation as model to send to your legislator. You can find the legislator’s contact information using Contact Congress. We recommend sending the letter to the legislator’s scheduler, who handles events in the legislator’s home district. E-mail is the preferred method of correspondence due to security concerns with hard mail.
Follow up with the SchedulerContact the scheduler to make sure they received the invitation.
Confirm the Date and Details: Work with the scheduler to find a date that works well for the member and your organization. If the date you suggest doesn’t work, offer several dates/ times as options. Be sure you are in agreement over where (at the facility) to meet, and who from your facility will "meet and greet" the legislator upon arrival. Ask if the legislator will be accompanied by staff and, if so, get their names and titles.
Prepare Your OrganizationHold informational meetings with staff and residents to explain the general intent of the visit. Work with staff and residents to prepare them to ask the elected official(s) about issues of interest. Recruit residents/clients, family members or staff members to share a few remarks during the visit.
Develop an Organizational Fact SheetUse our sample fact sheet below to develop an overview of your organization’s commitment to older adults and the greater community.
Coordinate Media RelationsIt is up to the legislator’s office whether or not the press should be involved. If media coverage is agreeable with the legislator, use our sample press release as a start to your media relations efforts. You should also feature the visit on your organization’s Web site and social media pages. LeadingAge is also here to help you get members of the media interested in your event.
Confirm with the Scheduler The legislator’s office may ask for more information about your organization, as well as a schedule of events or a list of who the participants will be during the visit. Offer to provide all of this information. It is best to contact the scheduler 1 to 2 weeks before the visit.
Perform a walk-through with key players before the visit The route should be mapped out so that the event and tour runs smoothly and on time.
Distribute Schedules to Everyone Involved in the VisitOnce the schedule’s finalized, distribute it to all participants and send a copy to the legislator’s scheduler.
Greet the Legislator and Staff Members (2-3 min.) Your organization’s CEO should be on hand to greet the legislator and his/her staff when they arrive on site. It is also preferable to have a resident/client and staff member accompany the legislator and the president or director on the tour. Following brief introductions, the tour should promptly begin.
Tour Your Organization (15-20 min.) Your CEO should lead the tour. This is the best time to show your organization’s work in action. Visit an exercise class or a computer lab where a class is in session. Set up with a faculty member and student to demonstrate what they have been learning. Show off a new pool or a renovated dining room. Be sure to introduce the legislator to people throughout your tour. The legislator will enjoy shaking hands, “exposing” their face and name to potential voters.
Meet with Residents/Clients, Family Members, Staff, Board and Volunteers (30-35 min.) At the end of the tour, invite the legislator to make a few remarks and answer any questions your residents, clients, family members, staff, board and volunteers may have. A conference room is an ideal location.
Send a thank you letter.A sample thank you letter is below.
Report back to LeadingAgeIf a LeadingAge staff person is unable to participate in the tour, let us know how the tour went. If any additional requests were made by the legislator, we can follow up with his/her Washington, D.C., office with the requested information.
Sample Invitation Letter
[Insert Name][Insert Organization][Insert street Address][Insert City, State, Zip][Insert Date]
The Honorable (insert name) U.S. House of Representatives or United States SenateWashington, DC 20515 or Washington, DC 20510
Dear [Insert Name]:
I would like to extend an invitation to you to visit XX. XX provides xx services to xx older adults. We also employ xx people and have nearly xx volunteers from the community.
During the visit, you will have the opportunity to tour our organization, meet with our clients and staff members and learn what issues matter to them. I am confident that by seeing our organization’s work in action, you will understand the important role you can play in helping us offer older adults the highest quality of life.
I hope that you will be able to accept our invitation to participate. I will call your office regarding the details of this event. Thank you for your consideration.
[Insert Your Name][Insert Your Position][Insert Your Organization’s Name]
Sample Organizational Fact Sheet
At Good Valley Retirement Community, we strive to make the town of Greensburg a betterplace to live by . . .
Promoting Economic Development
More than 110 of Good Valley’s staff members are Greensburg residents. This year, our organization will pay approximately $9.2 million in wages and benefits to staff members who reside in or near Greensburg.
Providing Quality Care and Services for Older Adults
Our organization sponsors a variety of programs, services and activities for Greensburg’solder adults, including:
Providing Access to Educational Opportunities Last year, the Good Valley Retirement Community provided $24,000 in tuition assistance for 12of its staff members .The organization also coordinates an internship program for University of Greensburg nursing students.
Helping Community Members in Need In 2010, the Good Valley Retirement Community’s residents, board members and employeesvolunteered 542 hours in the Greensburg community.
Serving as Active Community Members Good Valley’s residents, employees and board members are active members of theGreensburg community. They are affiliated with several organizations, including:
As an organization, Good Valley has developed partnerships with the following communityorganizations:
We work together to ensure that Greensburg is a great place to live for people of all ages.
For More Information: Good Valley Retirement Community 518 Main Street, Greensburg, US 55555 Phone: (321) 555-2331, Fax: (321) 555-1392 E-mail: email@example.com website: http://www.good-valley.org Sample Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEInsert DateContact: Name, Phone, E-mail
Representative Doe Learns about New Services for Older Adults at XX
(Las Vegas, NV) – Congresswoman Jane Doe (R-NV) toured XX today to see the programs and opportunities available for older adults in the community. During the visit, Congresswoman Doe met with residents and clients and their family members as well as staff members and volunteers to discuss issues affecting older adults in the district.
“Congressman Doe’s visit was a great way to share our organization’s work as well as the ways she can help us make her district a better place to grow old,” Bill Smith, President of XX said.
For more information, please visit xx’s website at www.xx.org.