How to Get Public Officials to Invest in Your Summer Programs

Posted by: Kelly Kennai

A Congressional Management Foundation survey recently asked congressional staff the best way for members of Congress to gain an understanding of constituent views. “Attending events in home district/state” was the top answer, with 98% of congressional staff noting its importance. Local events paint an impactful picture for the public official—bringing home for them the very real way in which Ys impact the community on a daily basis.

Group of kids in team hand stack.

How can you get elected leaders invested in your Y’s summer programs? Invite them to visit!

Throughout the year, including the month of August, Congressional leaders take a break from Washington, D.C., to spend time in their home states. Take advantage of these district work periods by inviting your members of Congress to visit your Y and experience firsthand the impact your programs are having on the community. This helps to deepen relationships and build support for the issues and programs that are important to advancing the Y’s cause.

View summer work schedule for the U.S. House of Representatives
View summer work schedule for the U.S. Senate

Here are some tips for kicking off a stronger relationship with your elected leaders:

Step 1: The Invitation

First, make your request by email to the scheduler. Be sure to send along a program brochure or some background materials about your Y. Immediately follow up the initial request with a phone call to the member’s local district/state office and Washington, D.C. office. If the scheduler is unavailable, leave a message and follow up with another phone call.

  • Tell the scheduler you have emailed an invitation for the member to visit your Y and learn more about either a specific program that impacts the community, or a variety of programs during the next congressional recess.

  • Suggest specific times and dates during the congressional recess. It is ideal to schedule the visit when your programs are in full swing, but be flexible.

  • Be clear in your request. Include logistics (time, place, location) and a designated point of contact.

  • Paint a picture of what the event will look like.

Step 2: Confirming the Visit

One week before the visit, call to confirm the date and time with the scheduler and ask for the name and contact number of the staff who will be accompanying the legislator. Be sure to find out how much time you will have with the senator or representative. Be flexible. Keep in mind that the legislator’s schedule can change without notice. If he or she is no longer available, request that a member of their staff visit your Y instead or reschedule for another time.

Step 3: Preparing for the Visit

Identify board members, youth, volunteers, program participants or staff who can tell the Y story effectively. You should aim to have a small group of about 4-6 people for the meeting during part of the visit for the most effective outcome. Be prepared. One of the most important pre-meeting activities is planning how the visit will proceed. Meet with YMCA participants to make sure everyone is clear about the goals and purpose before the visit.

Do your research! Review the senator or representative’s website to learn more about their background interests—you may have a common personal connection! Reach out to Y-USA’s Government Relations and Policy Office to learn more about the member and where the member stands on our federal legislative priorities.

Email me to request the complete toolkit, including Steps 4-9, tips for the day of the visit, working with media and customizable invitation and press release templates.

Bonus! Submit a photo and your Y will be entered to win one complimentary registration to National Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C., March 6-8, 2018. To  enter the contest, join the YMCA’s Advocates Action Network. As a member of the network, you will learn about the Y’s legislative priorities and will receive periodic action alerts so you can encourage your elected leaders to support issues important to the Y. You can also locate the names and contact information for your Senators and Representatives. Then, take photos of visits. Post them on social media using hashtag #YAdvocates or email them directly. Photos sent before September 8, 2017 will be considered for the contest.

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The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.