With the 2016 election behind us, the nation is turning its attention to the transition of government. While most eyes are on the presidential inauguration, almost 60 new Senators and Representatives were sworn in on January 3, 2017. These new legislators will serve as the voice in government for your organization’s members – their constituents – so building a good relationship is essential. But remember that new lawmakers will be hearing from thousands of constituents and scores of organizations, including trade associations, corporations and interest groups, so you need to stand out. Here are some fool-proof, effective ways to reach out to new members of Congress.
Show Them Around – Host a Facility Tour
Any new member will want – and need – to get to know their constituents: where they work, how they live and what issues concern them. Offer to organize a tour of one of your local facilities, or arrange a town hall-style meeting with your organization’s members. This will allow newly elected officials to mix and mingle with the people they represent and learn more about the value your organization brings to their district and the state. When inviting a new member to your facility, prep them with district-specific information like employee count, efforts around diversity and inclusion, number of veterans on staff, charitable contributions in the community and tax revenue paid to the district and state. These important metrics will help to establish your organization as an immediate influencer.
Provide Political Support
Members of Congress, whether new to Capitol Hill or seasoned legislators, must always keep one eye on the next election. More established members with A-list committee assignments tend to rely on established donors, but new members often face challenges with fundraising and need more help. That’s where you come in! Partner with a new member’s fundraising team to host a meet-and-greet event where you introduce your industry to a newly elected legislator. Events like these provide an opportunity for you to introduce fundraisers and industry members, and for the member of Congress to develop a robust social and fundraising base – including you. They can also lead to additional fundraising opportunities.
Let’s say your meet-and-greet is successful and now you’re being asked to host a full-fledged fundraising event. Not quite ready to commit to a large fundraising goal? Consider a low-dollar or young professionals event instead. Ticket prices of $50 or $100 will open your PAC event to more potential donors than an intimidating $500 or $1,000 price tag. Lower-dollar events tend to have a better turnout and provide an excellent opportunity for new members to meet potential donors, solidly establishing you as a trusted partner and influencer.
Make Use of Your Team
If your organization relies on the support of lobbyists or consultants, use them! Task your retainer lobbyists with creating an outreach strategy for new members. Partner with them to target and tier high-value members. But how do you determine what brings the highest value to your organization when the members are new and don’t have a voting record? To start, consider things like campus locations and employee concentration in a district or state, a member’s pet project, such as helping veterans, or interest in an issue, such as healthcare or energy conservation - something your organization may already be working on. Once committee assignments are made, revisit your priority list and don’t forget mid-year and end-of-year check-ins to make any course corrections. There should always be room on your target list to add other members’ names.
Make a Personal Connection
In politics, as in the rest of life, personal connections happen organically. You or someone in your organization may have a shared background with your new member of Congress – prior work experience, mutual acquaintances or maybe the same alma mater. Drawing attention to the similarities between you and your newly elected official will make them more open to engagement and more likely to remember you when you reach out in the future. Not sure if there is a connection that can be leveraged with the member and their staff? Visit the member’s social media pages, read their biography and learn about their background before being elected to Congress. Members will frequently highlight altruistic and charitable efforts on these pages as well, providing additional opportunities to connect with them.
There are many ways people and organizations reach out to new members of Congress – welcome packages, social media engagement and attending members’ open houses, to name a few. But it’s important to stand out among the flood of new names and new faces that members will see. By offering political support, hosting constituent meetings and making personal connections, you establish yourself and your organization as an influencer and thought leader – something new members won’t soon forget.