Organize. Educate. Advocate.
Between August and October, many Members of Congress leave Washington, D.C. to work in their home state. Our Peace Corps community is organizing local District Office meetings between now and October 15th with lawmakers around the country. As you may have heard, Congressman Mark Walker (R-NC) introduced an amendment to a Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bill (HR 2740) which would have eliminated the Peace Corps and other international programs for an entire year and crippled the organization for years to come. 110 Members of Congress voted in favor of de-funding the Peace Corps for at least a year. With your leadership, we hope to make sure each of the 110 members who voted in support of the Walker amendment hear directly from constituents about our disappointment in their vote.
What if I’ve never participated in an advocacy meeting before?
No problem! While past experience helps, passion and preparation can more than make up for that. If you are new to organizing or participating in advocacy meetings with Congressional offices, contact us if you want a review of some of the basics.
Five Steps to Influence Your Lawmaker
Here are 5 easy steps you can take to organize a meeting with your congressperson or their staff. Instructions for each step can be found below.
Step 1: Find contact information for your congressperson’s local office.
Step 2: Try to find at least one other RPCV or Peace Corps supporter to join you.
Step 3: Call and request your meeting!
Step 4: Work with NPCA and other Peace Corps supporters to prepare your pitch and talking points.
Step 5: After you hold your meeting(s), follow up with NPCA Advocacy!
Step 1: Determine key contact information for making your meeting request.
Visit https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative to find your congressperson and a link to their website.
In most instances, look under the “CONTACT ME” section on their websites, to find the locations and telephone numbers for your closest District Office(s).
(Please note that some offices will ask you to complete a Meeting Request Form on their website)
Step 2: Try to identify at least one other RPCV or Peace Corps supporter to join you.
While this is not mandatory, it is always nice to have at least one friendly face with you for the meeting! Contact us if you would like NPCA to reach out and help you find one or more partners. While we cannot promise, we can try to find someone to join you. It’s also possible to collaborate with another grassroots group called RESULTS.
NPCA is looking for opportunities for RPCVs to collaborate with grassroots advocates from the group RESULTS, which works on issues to address and support programs to address international health, education and poverty reduction. Follow this link to see if there is a RESULTS chapter near you with which you can collaborate on a meeting.
Step 3: Reach Out and Request Your Meeting!
Call the office and identify yourself as a constituent and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.
Tell them that you would like to schedule a meeting with the Congressperson to discuss the importance of the Peace Corps.
Work with the District Office to arrange a meeting that fits your schedule and the schedule for your congressperson. If the Congressperson is unable to meet, the District Director is also a very effective person to meet with.
*If you are working with RESULTS advocates, you also want to note you wish to discuss other parts of the international affairs budget.
Will I get a face-to-face meeting with my lawmaker?
It is possible, but not certain. Many times, advocates are successful in securing face-to-face meetings. In other cases, our advocates meet with district office staff. The best approach is to seek a face-to-face meeting with your lawmaker, but if that doesn’t work out, a meeting with staff is perfectly fine! They often have a lot of influence over what legislation their boss will support. Being as flexible as possible raises the likelihood for a face-to-face meeting with the member. You can contact NPCA staff to discuss strategy and prepare.
Step 4: Work with NPCA and other Peace Corps supporters in the days before your meeting to prepare your pitch.
Keep your fellow Peace Corps champions up to date on any developments, and if possible, get together as a group before the meeting. Even if it is just 30 minutes before you meet your lawmaker, getting together ahead of time to prepare for your meeting will increase your confidence and effectiveness.
NPCA can work with you to increase awareness and support about your upcoming meeting from other RPCVs in the area. Please let us know how things are going in the days/weeks leading up to your meeting. Promoting your meeting will help us build momentum as we try to meet with all 110 lawmakers who voted in favor of the Walker amendment.
Step 5: After you hold your meeting, follow up with NPCA Advocacy.
NPCA would like to help you make the most of your meeting and assist with any follow up to make sure your lawmaker’s staff is aware and follows through.
Sending a quick thank you note to the office thanking them for meeting with you can also go a long way.
If you take a photo, please share it with other RPCVs to encourage them to follow your example.
How to Lead the Meeting
Select a Group Leader
The Group Leader thanks the office for the opportunity to meet and begins with introductions
Everyone follows by telling staff their name and country and years of service. Note if you are a constituent.
Give thanks — If applicable, thank the office for their past support of Peace Corps appropriations and/or legislation.
Set the scene:
“As your constituents and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, we were disappointed to hear about your vote for Congressman Walker’s Amendment 89 to HR 2740, which would have eliminated funding for the Peace Corps for a year, beginning in October 2019.”
“The Peace Corps is urgently needed to help communities help themselves, share the best of the American idea and our values, and educate America about the world beyond our borders. America and the world need Peace Corps now.”
“Please do not vote to eliminate the Peace Corps, even if it is only for a year. It would cripple the program by calling home more than 7,000 Volunteers in over 60 countries, undoing years of work and American investments.”
(It is also important to stress that Peace Corps not only provides assistance overseas, but provides many benefits here at home. For example, a disproportionate share of RPCVs become teachers, entrepreneurs, or work in non-profits. Any personal anecdotes that reinforce the positive, domestic dividend of Peace Corps service would be wonderful to include.)
Can you please consider cosponsoring no-cost Peace Corps legislation like HR 1411 to help restore your constituents’ confidence?”
Give priority to constituents. Share pictures if you brought them. Review talking points below about the importance and low cost of the Peace Corps.
Make a Connection
Thank the office once again for their time and/or support, and be sure to exchange business cards so you can follow-up.
Talking Points about the Peace Corps’ Importance and Low Costs
Peace Corps doesn’t give people aid, it facilitates their efforts to improve their own communities. (Note: this would be a good time to briefly share your own stories of service to emphasize this point).
Many of these Volunteers are working on President Trump’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, and over 20,000 women participate in Peace Corps-led economic empowerment initiatives every month.
The fiscally responsible agency also enjoys the support of our nation’s military leaders. In 2019, 141 generals and admirals wrote an open letter to Congress emphasizing that for every $1 spent on conflict prevention, we save $16 in response costs and avoid sending our troops into harm’s way.
The Peace Corps currently costs less money than our military’s musical bands cost annually.
You can visit our State Resources page, go to the Congressional Delegation link, and find details on the approximate number of serving volunteers in your state and congressional district. It is also important to share ways in which Peace Corps service benefits the state and congressional district where you reside.
Other Ways Your Reps Can Support the Peace Corps
Please cosponsor and support HR 1411, The Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act. The bipartisan Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime, and would allow Americans who served their country abroad to put the Peace Corps’ logo on their final resting place, just like service members of the military are allowed to do. To be a cosponsor, please contact Rep. Garret Graves’ office.
Alternatives to District Office Meetings
While most local meetings are held in the District Offices of lawmakers, you can consider other alternatives for your encounters. In some cases, RPCVs have been successful in organizing gatherings such as pot luck dinners or restaurant gatherings in which they have invited their Congressperson to attend.
Many lawmakers will host town hall meetings to discuss issues and connect with constituents. While this venue may be challenging (given that there may be lots of other attendees with a variety of issues), it may be one way to briefly meet the lawmaker and provide some key information about Peace Corps issues.
If you exhaust your request in securing a meeting with the District Office, another alternative would involve making your case about the importance of the Peace Corps through a letter to the editor to your local newspaper. Contact us for more information.