Tips for Talking to Congress

Personalize.
Introduce yourself and state your concern. Give a clear and concise explanation of why you are calling or visiting and why this issue is important to you.

Example: Hi, thank you for taking the time to talk to me. My name is Joe from Detroit, Michigan. I want to ask you to help improve the adoption tax credit. This issue is especially important to me, because I was once in foster care, but found a family through adoption. The adoption tax credit helped me become a part of a family, and I want other children to have the same love and safety I found.

Educate.
Members of Congress and their staff are responsible for many issues. You are a resource to help them learn about the issues you care about. They might not yet be aware of your concern, but that doesn’t mean they won’t help. Prepare a clear, concise, and informative message to share. It is helpful to provide them with a handout summarizing your concern that includes contact information for follow-up questions.

If they ask questions you can’t answer, don’t worry! Take advantage of the opportunity to continue the conversation. Say: “I’m not sure, but I would be glad to find out for you.” Be sure to get contact information and respond, or ask an expert to help you respond.

Example: You might get asked when the credit was refundable and why does it matter? The adoption tax credit has helped families afford adoption since 1997, but the credit, which was made permanent in late 2012, is no longer refundable, as it was in 2010 and 2011. Because it is not refundable it won’t help many middle- and lower-income families.

Many of the FAQs answer the questions that might come up. View them here.

Advocate.
Explain the specific response you would like. Members of Congress care about their constituents’ concerns. Describe in a clear, concise, and complete way what actions you believe would best solve the problem.

Example: I believe the best adoption tax credit would be a refundable credit, so that families, especially those with moderate and lower incomes, can receive the full benefit of the credit regardless of their tax liability.

Helpful Advocacy Tips

  • Be clear and concise: Meeting or phone time is often limited. Plan what you want to say in advance so you are able to provide all the information you want to share.
  • Leave information: Leave behind a summary of your concerns and recommendations; include contact information.
  • Follow up: Send an email, card, or letter thanking the person you met with. Respond to any questions they had and provide any helpful resources.
  • Be kind: Even if the people you speak with seem uninterested, uninformed, or disagree with you, be kind. They may be of help in the future or less likely to oppose your concern.