Meet with a Candidate
Face-to-face meetings with a candidate or a senior staff member provide one of the best opportunities to express your opinion and discuss your concerns. These meetings are also a great way to build a relationship that can be continued or resumed in Washington, D.C., should the candidate be elected or re-elected.
Often, candidates will not be able to meet you, but a meeting with the right staffer can be just as effective. All candidates rely heavily on staffers, and often these campaign staffers become the legislative staff if the candidate is elected. Staff control the flow of information to the candidate. Remind your candidate that you vote in their district. Candidates and their staff have huge demands on their time and focus on those who can vote for them.
Our “Engage for Action” section on Advocate U has even more information about successful meetings.
If you run into a candidate at an event, or around town, introduce yourself as a constituent in the candidate’s state or district:
“Hi, I’m _________ and it’s really nice to meet you. I’m an advocate for CARE, a leading humanitarian organization. We have lots of supporters in your district and would like to find a time to come speak with you about addressing global poverty. What’s the best way to reach your office?”
Arranging a Meeting:
- Call the campaign office or e-mail a letter, addressed to the candidate, and directed to the attention of the scheduler, requesting a meeting. See sample meeting request letter below.
- Mention that you live in the candidate’s district and that you are a CARE Action advocate. Include the number of CARE supporters in the candidate’s district. Contact your regional advocacy coordinator for detailed information on CARE supporters.
- Make follow-up phone calls to the campaign office until you can agree on a date. If they don’t return your call within two or three days, call again.
- It can be hard to reach campaign offices, so you might have to get creative. Utilize any info on the campaign web site – phone number and email is easiest, but if you can’t get through, try going to the campaign office in person. If you still can’t reach them, do some additional research into the candidate and find out who their supporters and allies are. You might be able to get a meeting request to them via a third party. If you really get stuck, contact your regional advocacy coordinator for help.
- If you cannot meet with the candidate, try to meet with a senior staff member such as the campaign manager or the political director.
- Email your regional advocacy coordinator to let them know that you’ve scheduled a meeting. They can help you prepare and plan your follow-up.
- Follow up with the scheduler and let them know who will be attending your meeting and what the agenda will be. Get directions to the office and provide a number where you can be reached if anything changes.
Preparing for a Meeting:
- Research your candidate to gauge their interest or natural affinity for global development. This can be done through online research, reading the campaign website, or talking to others in your community.
- Use your research to tailor your messaging with the candidate. For example, if they are a veteran, talk about how global development can help enhance global security. Or if they did a study abroad program in Bangladesh, talk about how CARE is working in Bangladesh and around the world to ensure marginalized communities have the tools to rise out of poverty for good.
- Go to CAREAction.org to familiarize yourself with our downloadable issue briefs and questions.
- Practice what you are going to say so you sound natural to the candidate or staff person, and not like you are reading straight from a script. Practicing will build your confidence and add to your effectiveness.
At the Meeting:
- Arrive early to give your group plenty of time to get situated before your scheduled meeting time.
- Wear business attire and a CARE pin (if you have one).
- Offer CARE Action issue briefs or CARE's 2018 Advocacy Agenda as a resource to the campaign.
- Be accurate. To build a working relationship and get results, you need to be a credible source of information. Never bluff. If you don’t know something, just say so. Tell them you will find out and get back to them. Your regional advocacy coordinator can help you find the answers you need.
- Be brief. Candidates and their staff appreciate it when you get to the point and respect their time. Your meeting or call might be interrupted, so it’s best to make your main point in the first few minutes. First and foremost, you’re asking them to support global development and humanitarian assistance.
- Make sure to exchange contact information and leave documents and any other appropriate items for the candidate/ staffer to become more engaged with your issue. Effective advocacy is based on communication that is simple, polite and to the point.
- Be courteous.
- Be specific. In your communications with candidates and their staff, make a point to mention exactly what you would like them to support and why you are passionate about these issues.
- Be sure to ask questions that get to the candidate’s views on our issues.
- Focus on no more than three issues to cover in any one meeting – even one issue is sometimes enough.
- Most importantly, make sure that by the time the conversation is done, whether it’s two minutes or two hours, they know that you are asking them to be a champion for global poverty.
- More information is available on Advocate U’s “Engage for Action” Section.
Questions to Ask During Meetings:
Remember to choose only up to three issue questions and bring along the fact sheets to leave behind. You can find and print CARE Action fact sheets here. It is most critical to include the question on the foreign assistance budget. The others may only be appropriate for candidates who have already developed their positions on these issues.
BONUS: These questions can also be used for town halls
Top Question: Foreign Assistance Budget:
Less than one percent of the U.S. federal budget funds global poverty-fighting and humanitarian programs, and yet these programs help save millions of lives and make the world a safer place. Do you support preserving the foreign assistance budget?
Gender Based Violence:
Violence against women and girls is at epidemic proportions in many countries around the world. At least one out of three women globally will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, with rates reaching 70 percent in some countries. Do you support U.S. leadership in implementing a long-term comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to GBV?
Food and Nutrition Security:
The U.S., through legislation like the Global Food Security Act, has led in ensuring that communities around the world have the tools they need to feed themselves. Do you support continuing programs that address long-term food and nutrition security?
Ensuring women can plan and space their pregnancies can save hundreds of thousands of lives around the world every year. Do you support lifesaving maternal health programs, including access to contraception?
The world is currently facing the biggest refugee crisis in our history with more than 65 million people displaced from their homes. Do you support humanitarian response programs?
Following up After a Meeting:
It is important to report your engagement with candidates on CARE’s behalf. CARE has a team of dedicated Regional Advocacy Coordinators (RACs) who are eager to hear all about your advocacy work in the 2018 election cycle. Your RAC can also provide personalized guidance and support throughout the process. Whether your engagement with a candidate about CARE’s issue is at a formal event, like a town hall, or informal, at a state fair, CARE wants to hear about it! You can find out who your RAC is here.
After meeting with a candidate or a staff member, it is important to maintain contact to help bolster the relationship you are building with the candidate’s office.
- Send a thank you/follow up e-mail to the person with whom you met, citing specifics from your meeting.
- Thank the person you met with for listening to your concerns, especially if the candidate takes action. Commend the candidate publicly, including on their Facebook page, letters to the editor, etc.
Remember that if your candidate is helpful and you praise them publicly, next time they may help even more. The ultimate goal is to build a positive, long-term relationship.
- Get the name of the staff person you speak to and try to deal with the same person each time.
- Provide additional information on global development issues as needed by e-mail.