Building Relationships with Policy Makers - Do's and Don'ts

Keep these in mind when you plan to call or meet with policy makers.


Your homework - Before making contact, learn key background information.  Visit a Senator's or Representative's website ( or States and many local municipalities also have websites where you can find information on state and local elected officials.  Be sure to note:   Political Party of Member; Committee assignments; Biography; Key positions on your issue.  For Members of Congress, check if he or she is on the Afterschool Caucus.

Identify constituent connections. When you send an email or contact an office, it is important to establish that the elected official represents you. If you know him or her personally, a member of the staff, or even family members or children, be ready to mention this information.

Be specific. When you call, email or meet in person, tell the official why you are there and what you want. Your interaction might only last a few minutes.

Establish yourself an expert information source. Elected officials have limited time, staff and many competing issues to deal with every day. If they sit on a committee that covers afterschool as part of its work, they might be quite familiar with the facts, but many are not. That's why advocacy is so important. You can fill their information gap and become their "expert."

Bring materials to leave behind.  Leave your elected official with a profile of your program and any other materials that describe your program's benefits for kids and families in your community.

Follow-up after a meeting. Send a personal thank you note to the official and staff for their time. If you promised information, be sure to get back in touch quickly. If the elected official offered to do something, follow up that offer after a reasonable time and be sure to thank them for any action they took.


Think you have to know everything. It's ok to admit you don't know something. It gives you a reason to follow-up with the official or staff after you have researched an answer. 

"Burn bridges." It is easy to get emotional about issues, especially if you are at opposite ends. Work to find some sort of consensus and always leave your dealings with elected officials on positive terms.

Forget: Elected officials work for you! You should be courteous but not intimidated.



Note: The [bold type, bracketed] areas indicate the critical components of your letter. Use them as a guideline for inserting your own thoughts and words, but be sure not to include them in your final version. The address on the outside of your envelope should read "The Honorable [first name] [last name]." 

118 Advocacy Lane [Your Address]
Freedom, Maine 04941


Susan B. Anthony
Maine House of Representatives
State Capitol
Augusta, Maine 04330

Dear Representative Anthony:

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me last week to talk about the importance of supporting afterschool programs. As we discussed, and as I have witnessed firsthand, afterschool programs keep kids safe, increase academic achievement and help working families.

I look forward to meeting with you again to further discuss the ways in which we can work together to secure funding for afterschool programs throughout our state.


Sojourner Truth