Meeting with Legislative Staff Members


by Caitlin Leach

As you prepare for your trip to Call-on Congress in Washington, make room in your luggage for your stories, your experiences and your hope for the future. Your perspectives bring legislative issues to life. Anecdotes about colorectal cancer’s impact on you and your community are essential for your representatives in Washington and their staff members to hear.

Members of Congress make decisions by weighing the facts and evidence, but also based on the insights their constituents share about how policy impacts their lives. Adding your voice to the conversation is critical to successful advocacy.

Meeting with Legislative Staff

While you are in Washington next week, many members of the House and Senate will be in recess — meaning the Members are back home working in their districts. Advocating on the Hill during a congressional recess is just as important as advocating during a busy in-session week.

While you might not get to meet your representative and have a photo-op shaking hands, you will get to meet with the brain trust – congressional staff members. This will be during a time when they have less-hectic schedules and more time to devote their attention to the issues.

Members of Congress are supported by a team of outstanding staffers who advise them on a variety of policy areas covering everything imaginable. You are likely to meet with a staffer; often a legislative assistant (LA), who handles health or related issues. These individuals are part of a legislative staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes to propose ideas for new policies, brief the representative on issues and take dozens of meetings each week with interest groups and constituents.

These are the policy experts.

Sharing your story with a member of the legislative staff is just as effective as sharing it directly with your representatives. What you discuss at your meeting will be shared with the Member of Congress.

What to Share During your Meeting

So what story should you tell?

  • Make the statistics come to life. Put a face on the 142,000 newly diagnosed colorectal cancer patients each year. Talk about your experience with the disease — how it has changed your life to raise awareness about the disease.
  • Provide urgency. The time is now, during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, for Congress to advance policies that fight colorectal cancer.
  • Make an “ask.” Ask the staffer and his or her boss to join the fight — whether it be by signing on to a particular bill, speaking on the floor about colorectal cancer, or requesting robust appropriations for the CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program. View our legislative priorities during Call-on Congress. 

A few days after your meeting, follow up. Send a thank-you email and check in on the status of your ask.

Raising your voice to advocate is your civic duty. We hope everyone attending Call-on Congress has save travels this weekend. We’ll see you Sunday!

Caitlin Leach with Research!America

caitlyn-research-americaCaitlin serves as Manager of Policy and Advocacy for Research!America. Some of her duties include implementing the organization’s policy strategy; acting as a Research!America representative with coalitions and federal agencies; and managing the organization’s grassroots advocacy network.

Before joining Research!America, she was a senior legislative assistant to Representative Rush Holt (NJ-12), having previously held other legislative, operational and campaign positions within Rep. Holt’s Washington and New Jersey offices. Her legislative portfolio included science and R&D; the economy (taxes, small business, financial services, smart growth); and appropriations among others. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Anthropology and a Master’s Degree in Government with a concentration in science policy, both from the Johns Hopkins University.

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