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How To Host Your Legislators

by Published On: May 06, 2011Updated On: Feb 11, 2014

Overview

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:  

  • Plan Ahead: Submit your invitation as far in advance as possible. Be ready to follow up by phone in order to get in direct touch with the staff member who handles the Congressperson’s schedule. It is a good idea to plan your event during Congressional recesses. Check out the recess schedule.

    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.

  • Work with LeadingAge: Consider LeadingAge your partner in hosting a successful visit. We can contact schedulers on your behalf, provide important legislation information and follow up with the member’s Washington office following your visit. We can also provide background information on whether a legislator has been supportive of LeadingAge's issues in the past, and whether we are trying to get your legislator's support on a particular issue or specific piece of legislation.
  • Prepare Your Organization: It’s important that your residents, clients, family members, staff , board and volunteers know about your visit and are willing to be a part of it. Here are some ways to include them in the events:

    •  Residents/Clients: Choose a few residents/clients who reflect your organization’s diversity to speak about their experiences with your organization. Select individuals who can articulate their stories in a professional manner.

    • Family Members: Ask a family member who has a positive experience with your organization to share his or her story.

    • Staff Member: Invite a staff member to talk about the value of working at your organization. You may want to choose an employee who has taken part in professional development programs while working for you.

    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.

  • Keep Track of Time: Given the demands on a legislator’s time, it’s important to make the most of their visit.  You can use the sample schedule in this guide to host a short, but significant, visit. Having a walk-through day prior to the event is recommended to ensure that all participants understand their role, know the purpose of the visit, are aware of the route that will be taken in and around the buildings, and know how much time they will be allotted for their portion of the presentation. 

Before the Visit

Send an Invitation Letter
Use 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 Scheduler
Contact 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 Organization
Hold 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 Sheet
Use our sample fact sheet below to develop an overview of your organization’s commitment to older adults and the greater community.  

Coordinate Media Relations
It 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 Visit
Once the schedule’s finalized, distribute it to all participants and send a copy to the legislator’s scheduler.

During the Visit

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, and “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.

After the Visit

Send a thank you letter.
A sample thank you letter is below.

Report back to LeadingAge
If 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, DC, 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 Senate
Washington, 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. 

Sincerely,

[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 better place 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: 

  • Weekly dance and aerobics classes at the Greensburg Community Center. 
  • Monthly cholesterol and blood sugar screenings at Good Valley. 
  • A monthly “Savvy Senior” column in the Greensburg Gazette

Providing Access to Educational Opportunities 
Last year, the Good Valley Retirement Community provided $24,000 in tuition assistance for 12 of 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 employees volunteered 542 hours in the Greensburg community.  

Serving as Active Community Members 
Good Valley’s residents, employees and board members are active members of the Greensburg community. They are affiliated with several organizations, including:  

  • Greensburg Chamber of Commerce 
  • Green County Council on Aging 
  • The Greater Greene County Lions Club 

As an organization, Good Valley has developed partnerships with the following communityorganizations: 

  • Greensburg Elder Affairs Committee 
  • The Greene County United Way 

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: info@good-valley.org 
website: http://www.good-valley.org 

Sample Press Release 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Insert Date
Contact: 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

 



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