Capitol Hill Fly-ins: Always Make the Ask

Welcome back to our ongoing series to help you advance your public policy success when conducting Washington, D.C., fly-ins with your employees and members.

Impress upon your grassroots activists that they should never, ever leave a Hill advocacy meeting without “making the ask.” In other words, put the question directly to the lawmaker whether you can count on her support. Then maintain silence until they hear a reply. Many people find this uncomfortable. Too bad. This is life in the big leagues. Make the ask. Wait for an answer.

Remind your advocates to hand your one-page leave behind that succinctly reinforces your message to the member as the meeting ends. The timing of this is important. Never hand it over at the beginning of the meeting. You want all the attention focused on your discussion, not a sheet of paper. That paper is simply for after the fact reinforcement.

As the meeting breaks up, instruct your emissaries to ask the member and her staff who else you should talk to on the Hill. They may hold the keys to some hidden doors. Introductions to other representatives and senators are most helpful, but there’s more. Don’t ignore introductions to Hill staffers in other members’ offices or in key committees. This type of opening may be just what you need to break the ice with a pivotal committee staffer. Also, they may have connections with government relations experts in other organizations who are working on your issue, perhaps unbeknownst to you.

Also alert your envoys that they are never to offer a campaign contribution when making the rounds on Capitol Hill. If they choose to contribute to a certain candidate, that’s fine. They must realize, however, that there is a time and place for everything. Slipping an envelope to a member of Congress or one of his staffers puts them in an awkward position and makes the giver look like a know-nothing.

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