Help lawmakers connect the dots between the policies they write and the work you’re doing in your community by meeting with them face to face when they return to your district. These meetings can take place at your clinic or practice, the lawmaker’s office, or a health fair—all are great spots for advocacy.
Below are five main areas of focus to help maximize your meeting time and make your voice heard.
1. Set up a meeting.
Find your state and federal lawmakers with the click of a button.
2. Prepare in advance.
Knowledge is power, especially when meeting with lawmakers. Take the time to do basic background research on the lawmaker’s website before your meeting to ensure that you stand out. Before your meeting, take some time to consider these things:
Your lawmaker’s legislative history
Have they supported or opposed anything in your talking points in the past? What legislative committees do they sit on? Are there important aspects of their biography or personal stories that might make them more receptive to your message? These are all basic but critical pieces of information to know to have an effective meeting and will allow you to focus your discussion on details that may help to earn their support.
The issues your lawmaker is particularly active on
Look into their committee memberships and the bills they sponsor or cosponsor. In many cases, your meeting is your chance to educate your lawmaker with a perspective you’re uniquely able to provide.
Your lawmaker’s political party
Party affiliation gives you a general sense of how to approach a conversation. If done right, you can build support for an issue by communicating in ways that resonate with various political and personal philosophies.
3. Develop your elevator pitch.
Elected officials need to hear about your practice and your patients — no one makes a better case than you.
Elevator pitches are brief, persuasive speeches that use a personal story to urge a decision-maker to support your cause. You’ll want to keep the following helpful tips in mind when developing your elevator pitch.
Leverage compelling stories to make a bigger impact.
How would a policy impact your patients or your practice? Can you demonstrate that impact through a particular patient’s story?
Use data and statistics to support your argument.
You'll want information to back up your cause. Some information you may want to provide includes:
• the number of patients you serve,
• the number of people your practice employs,
• specifics on services you provide, and
• special services you provide that relate to the community.
Be specific about what you want the lawmaker to do.
For example, “We would like you to co-sponsor this bill” or “We encourage you to increase funding for this program.”
Establish credibility and trustworthiness.
The best way to foster trust in your relationship with your lawmaker is to be clear you’ll follow up. This communicates to the lawmaker and their staff that you are in this discussion for the long haul.
4. Keep the conversation focused.
Be clear and direct with your asks.
Are you asking them to introduce or cosponsor a bill? Increase funding for an existing program? You should make sure the request is clear and then provide necessary background and details.
Bring the point home.
The No. 1 thing lawmakers and their staff want to know is how a policy is affecting or will affect their constituents. You are a trusted member of your community who can provide helpful background as they try to assess how a proposal will affect their home communities.
Use medical jargon sparingly.
You are there to provide your expertise on how health care policies will affect your community. However, be mindful to use medical terms that are easily grasped by the public.
Know that you won't have an answer to every question.
You are there to bring your on-the-ground perspective to your lawmakers. You can refer them to AAFP staff or tell them you will follow up with them with a detailed answer.
Agree to disagree.
Don’t waste time arguing if a lawmaker disagrees with you on an issue or has taken an opposing position. You’re there to tell them about how things are affecting your practice and the community, which helps inform their next actions.
5. Follow up after the meeting.
Join AAFP's Key Contacts program and get paired with congressional leaders and elected officials supportive of priorities of family physicians.
Congratulations! You enjoyed a successful meeting with your lawmaker on behalf of your profession and patients. Your work is not done, however. Here is what’s next and how you can stay involved.
Write a thank-you note.
These letters should be personal and reiterate the points you made during your meeting.
Share your experience.
Take photos during your meeting and share them through your social media platforms. Lawmakers don’t get a lot of positive attention on social media, so they always appreciate being tagged and thanked in a post.
Provide AAFP staff with feedback from your meeting.
We rely on your feedback to inform our legislative strategies.