Photo by Ken Lund, Flickr
Go to www.house.gov to look up your Representative by zip code.
Why Nonprofits Should Contact Members of Congress
Every Coloradan has two U.S. Senators and a U.S. Representative (also known as a Congressman or Congresswoman). Both Senators represent the state as a whole and have district offices throughout the state. Colorado is divided into seven Congressional Districts and each district has a Representative. Representatives have several offices within their districts to serve their constituents. Representative and Senators have offices in Washington DC as well.
DC offices are primarily concerned with the legislative business of Congress. District offices focus on constituent services. Contacting a district office is often the best way to identify which staff member can help you with your request whether that person is in the same office or in DC.
Nonprofits have many reasons to contact their members of Congress. Common reasons include, but are not limited to:
- meeting with the member of Congress and/or Congressional staff;
- influencing that member’s vote;
- inviting that member to an event in Colorado;
- asking assistance from that member with issues experience by constituents;
- requesting a letter of support for a federal grant application; and more.
Except during a holiday or recess, members of Congress will probably be in DC and unavailable for meetings in Colorado. When they are back in Colorado, their schedules fill up quickly. Because they are so busy, you will most likely meet with a staff member. Staff members have more time to devote to your request and often have subject matter expertise. So, you should treat staff members as you would treat the member of Congress.
Representatives are more responsive to constituents. Although their staff members will help you if they can, they discourage individuals from other districts from sending emails or making phone calls to their offices. Unless your organization serves the entire state or multiple districts, it’s usually best to communicate with the Representative of the district where your offices are located.
Methods of Contact
- In-person meeting or invitation to an event - The legislator’s website typically has an online form to use for scheduling requests. Making a scheduling request well in advance of a meeting or event date is recommended.
- Postal mail - Postal mail can be sent to the member’s office in Washington DC or a district office in Colorado. Be sure to allow a few weeks for screening and delivery of postal mail to Washington DC.
- Phone calls - Typically, Congressional websites do not include a directory of staff. If you don’t have a contact person for the matter, you can call the general number for the office and the staffer answering the phone will help you identify the right contact person. If you are unsure where to call, it’s best to start with the district office.
- Emails - Congressional websites typically do not include email addresses for staff either. Use the contact form to lobby on a policy issue or ask a question. Request a response and include your contact information if you would like to hear back from the member of Congress. It may take days or weeks for a response due to the high volume of email.
- If you plan to communicate regularly by phone or email, it’s help to identify the right contact person for the office, so you can call or email that person directly.
- Social media - Although Congressional offices vary in their use of social media, nearly all of them use Facebook and Twitter regularly.