Organize. Educate. Advocate.
During August, many members of Congress leave Washington D.C. during their “recess” period to work in their home state. While Congress returns to Washington in September and October, members will continue to travel back home to connect with constituents. Our NPCA community is organizing local District Office meetings between now and October 31st with lawmakers around the country.
There are many important reasons to be seeking a district office meeting at this time!
Peace Corps Funding: Congress has not completed work on funding packages for the upcoming fiscal year (FY 2020). We have a chance to secure a funding increase of at least $15 million for Peace Corps.
House of Representatives: The Defeated Walker Amendment: Earlier this year, 110 House lawmakers supported an amendment which in part would have eliminated all Peace Corps funding in FY 2020. Though the amendment was defeated, lawmakers who supported it need to hear directly from their constituents that eliminating Peace Corps funding is unacceptable.
House of Representatives - Positive Legislation: In the House there are several pieces of legislation that need to be advanced. Chief among them is H.R. 3456, Peace Corps Reauthorization legislation authored by RPCV Congressman John Garamendi that contains a variety of provisions designed to strengthen Peace Corps funding, honor Peace Corps service, improve financial support for RPCVs on disability due to Peace Corps related health issues, and more!
Senate – Negative Legislation: In the Senate, S. 2320 is legislation that would remove Peace Corps’ independence and place the agency and many of its key decision-making power under the control of the State Department.
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: 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 other 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.
This year, NPCA is involved in a partnership in which we explore opportunities for RPCVs to collaborate with grassroots advocates from the group RESULTS, which works on issues contained to the international affairs budget 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: Request Your Meeting!
Call the office (or use the congressperson’s meeting request form), 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, including Peace Corps Funding and other pertinent legislation.*
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 want to note they will also join you 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 meeting participants 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 demonstrate the vast support for Peace Corps all across the country.
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.
Take a photo of your meeting and share it with NPCA and 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:
Group Leader thanks the office for the opportunity to meet and begins with introductions and everyone follows (name and country, and years of service only, please); please note if you are a constituent when introducing yourself. When appropriate, thank the congressperson for their past support of the Peace Corps
At any meeting, you should arrive prepared with one or two asks. Generally speaking, this is cosponsoring a bill.
Please cosponsor HR 3456, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2019. (House Only)
Please oppose S.2320, the Peace Corps Accountability Act of 2019. (Senate Only)
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.
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.