Working with Congress: Activist Milestone #4

July 7, 2009

Establish a Relationship with the Congressional Aide Who Handles Your Issue

One of the secrets of RESULTS’ success has been our relationship-building work with the congressional aides who handle issues of hunger and poverty. These aides often meet daily with their representatives and senators to offer advice and to interpret the thousands of bills that are introduced in Congress each year. Developing relationships with these aides so that they become our allies in our quest to make champions of our members of Congress is a key component in building the necessary political will to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the globe.

Use this guide to put together an action plan for the aides in your own congressional offices. This blog post by one of our advocates is a simple guide to building great relationships. You can also check out this webinar on Initiating and Building Relationships with Members of Congress.


Step One: Learn more about your representative and senators.

Get background information about your members of Congress and their positions on the issues. Here are some sources for this information:


Step Two: Identify the aides in Washington who handle your issues.

This may involve a call to the local or DC office. In some cases, one staff member will handle several issues simultaneously. You can also find fairly accurate information on the Legislator Lookup on our website. If you cannot find the specific aide on our website, call your member of Congress’ Washington, DC, office and ask for the person who handles your specific issue.

You can map out specific information about House and Senate aides by using the chart below (or your own):

Representative: _________________________________   Point Person from Group: _________________

Staff Member Name Phone # E-mail Address Preferred Method of Contact
Chief of Staff
Aide for Issue #1: ______________
Aide for Issue #2: ______________
Aide for Issue #3: ______________


Senator #1: _________________________________   Point Person from Group: _________________

Staff Member Name Phone # E-mail Address Preferred Method of Contact
Chief of Staff
Aide for Issue #1: ______________
Aide for Issue #2: ______________
Aide for Issue #3: ______________


Senator #2: _________________________________   Point Person from Group: _________________

Staff Member Name Phone # E-mail Address Preferred Method of Contact
Chief of Staff
Aide for Issue #1: ______________
Aide for Issue #2: ______________
Aide for Issue #3: ______________


Step Three: Begin to build a relationship with the key aides.

  1. Introduce yourself in person or over the phone.
  2. Ask if the aide has a few minutes to speak to you.
  3. Tell the aide that you are a constituent and a volunteer for RESULTS who is concerned about hunger and poverty issues.
  4. Thank the aide for the work he or she is doing and specifically acknowledge something your member of Congress has done.
  5. Choose one issue or piece of legislation to ask your aide about and frame your request as a laser talk created using the EPIC format.
  6. Ask if you can send him or her any additional information via e-mail.
  7. Make a plan to follow up with the aide by asking when you might call back or, if he or she prefers, when the aide might be able to get back to you.
  8. Be sure to follow up quickly with the aide, particularly with a thank-you e-mail following your call and after any successful outcomes of your requests.


Step Four: Work with your group to establish an effective system of communicating information and requests to the aide, including following up.

  1. Who will be the contact person in your group? _________________________
  2. Ask the aide what the best way is to communicate initial requests? Phone? E-mail?
  3. Ask him or her: What is the best way to follow up on requests? Phone? E-mail?
  4. Continue to stay in regular contact with the aide via their preferred communication method. Send the aide key media or other information related to the issue you are working on to keep him or her informed.
  5. After some initial contact with the aide, consider asking him or her to have a conference call with the group and/or local coalition partners so he or she can get to know other people who care about the issues.


Tips on communicating with your aide via e-mail or fax:

  • Choose an eye-catching but descriptive subject heading.
  • Include an acknowledgement for something the aide or member of Congress has done.
  • Keep your message focused and concise.
  • Make sure your request and your plans for follow-up are clear.
  • If an aide needs more information, get it to him or her promptly. Your group can use a chart like this to track your requests:

Aide Request Follow-up Conversation Date Group Contact Person


Step Five: Acknowledge your member of Congress for his or her actions AND be sure to thank the aide(s) for their help.

In addition to thank you notes sent to the congressional office, you can also write a letter to the editor of your local paper recognizing your member of Congress for a positive action or attend a town hall meeting where your member is speaking and thank him or her in front of the room.

Remember that representatives, senators, and their aides field countless requests and complaints. Your consistent acknowledgement of their positive actions and responsiveness to constituent concerns will go a long way toward making champions out of your members of Congress and establishing strong, reciprocal relationships with their aides.

Action Taken by Member Volunteer Following Up and Type of Acknowledgement


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