How to Advocate to Your Lawmaker, Part 3

November 8, 2022  |  
Welcome! This is the 3rd part of the Alliance’s free 4-part course How to Advocate to Your Lawmaker. If you haven’t already worked through parts 1 and 2, we encourage you to start from the beginning.

3.1 What Do I Need to Know About the Lawmaker?

Goal: Research Your Lawmaker

Once you’ve defined what you’re asking for, determine which lawmaker you should reach out to. You’ll want to meet with a lawmaker at the right level of government to take action on your request. For example, a city council member can’t make decisions about national policy. If you’d like an overview, check out this PDF.

Once you know who you’re meeting with, you’ll want to know something about them.

Check this out:


Put It Into Practice

Use this worksheet to research the lawmaker you’re going to be meeting with.

3.2 How Do I Work With Legislative Staff?

Goal: Build Relationships with Legislative Staff

Sometimes you meet with staff members rather than with the lawmaker, and that’s perfectly fine! Staff can be valuable allies and often know more about the details of specific legislation than their bosses. And if you remain involved in advocacy work (which we hope you will!), you’ll also want to cultivate relationships with staff over time.

Check it out:


Put It Into Practice

You can reach any federal lawmaker’s office by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Once you’re connected to the right office, ask for the name and email address of the staff person who handles homelessness or housing issues.

For your future advocacy efforts, you may also want to get connected with state or local officials. You can do a little digging online to find the right phone numbers and then call to find out which staff members handle housing or homelessness issues.

3.3 Any Tips for Virtual Meetings?

You may be meeting with your legislator online using Zoom or a similar technology.

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Relax. Some people act more stiffly in an online meeting than they would in an in-person meeting, but that makes it harder to form the human connections you’re seeking to make.
  • Try to have your camera at about eye level, not looking up or down at you. That makes it easier to relate to you.
  • Try to have a pleasant, non-distracting background behind you (like trees, a wall, or curtains). Make sure you have enough lighting that the lawmaker can see your face clearly.
  • Minimize background noise. Your lawmaker may be able to hear you better if you use headphones, especially if they have a built-in mic.
  • Make sure you know how to use the software ahead of time.
    • Zoom is a popular software for meetings, and it may be what your lawmaker’s office likes to use. You can download the Zoom application and try it out now. Choose the desktop client if you’re using a computer. If you’ll be using a phone, look for the Zoom app in the App Store or Google Play .
    • If this will be your first time using Zoom and you want some basics, Zoom has a bunch of great videos on YouTube. Here’s one about how to join a meeting, and here’s one about audio and video basics. You won’t need any of the fancier features for meeting with a lawmaker: just make sure you can open a meeting and turn your camera and microphone on and off.

You’ve completed 3 of 4 pages. Up next, we’ll talk through what to do after you meet with your lawmaker.