American Association for Cancer Research

Communicating with Congress

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From funding research grants to minimizing the barriers to clinical trials, the decisions made in Washington, D.C., directly affect the rate of progress in the war against cancer.

On this page, you will find tips to facilitate communication with your member of Congress and his or her staff. It is important to reach out throughout the year to build and maintain strong relationships and make yourself known as an expert resource on issues pertaining to cancer research.

Please don't hesitate to contact the AACR Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs with questions or for assistance scheduling meetings with your legislators. E-mail us at govrelations@aacr.org or call (202) 898-6499.

TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL MEETING ON CAPITOL HILL

 

Meeting in person with your member of Congress or his or her staff is one of the most effective ways to develop a relationship and maintain a dialogue about the value of cancer research. Members will usually try to make constituent meetings a priority in their busy schedules.

Meeting Preparation:

  • Several weeks in advance, submit a written request to the member's office. Be sure to include the following information: dates and times you are available to meet, the issues you wish to discuss and the names of any others who will attend the meeting.
  • If your member is not available, a member of the staff will meet with you on their behalf. Members rely on staff to advise them on important issues and to make key decisions on their behalf. Building a strong relationship with staff is imperative.
  • Prepare two to three key points to speak about.
    (Keep in mind that meetings are typically limited to 10-15 minutes)
  • Know your member's stance and voting record on cancer research issues as well as their committee assignments, leadership positions and biographical information.
    (Visit their website or contact AACR for information)

During the Meeting:

  • Identify your institution and briefly describe the research being conducted there.
  • Focus on the two or three issues specific to your research area or your institution to discuss.
  • If possible, describe how your issues could directly affect your district or state (for example, in terms of lives saved, cost savings, economic stimulus or global competitiveness).
  • Solicit the member's or the staff member's view of the issue(s), talk about merits of their position.
  • Be clear about your objective and desired outcome. (Example: Vote for or against H.R. _.)
  • Emphasize the need for significant investment in research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Following-Up:

  • Leave behind your contact information and offer your expertise if it is needed in the future.
  • Send a thank you note and follow-up information to ensure that the member and staff keep your points in mind.
  • Send another thank you note if the member takes the requested action. 

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INVITING YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS ON A SITE VISIT OF YOUR LAB OR INSTITUTION

 

Inviting your member of Congress on a site visit to your lab or institution is an ideal way to make a lasting impression. These visits provide an opportunity to demonstrate to your member, first-hand, the progress occurring in the fight against cancer and the breakthrough innovation occurring in their own home state or district.

Meeting Preparation:

  • Members of Congress typically return to their home states and districts on weekends and during congressional work periods to visit with constituents.
  • Extend an invitation to either your member's Washington, D.C., office or nearest district office. Be sure to include the following information: the location and description of your lab or institution, dates and times you are available to host the member, any specific issues you wish to discuss and the names of any others who will be in attendance.
  • If your member is not available, a member of their staff may be available to attend on their behalf. members rely on staff to advise them on important issues and to make key decisions on their behalf. Building a strong relationship with staff is imperative.
  • Once you have received confirmation, give advance notice to anyone who will be involved in the site visit, including your staff as well as any public relations staff for your lab or institution, as they may be interested in coordinating media coverage and publicity.

During the Meeting:

  • Focus on the two or three issues specific to your research area or your institution to discuss.
  • Lead the member or staff on an interactive tour. Explain how your research is conducted and describe its potential for preventing and curing cancer.
  • Introduce the members of your staff and explain their roles.
  • Emphasize the need for a significant investment in research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and use the visit to demonstrate how federal dollars are invested.
  • If possible, describe how your work directly affects the member's district (in terms of lives saved, cost savings, economic stimulus or global competitiveness).

Following-Up:

  • Send a thank you note and follow-up information to ensure that the member and staff keep your points in mind.
  • Offer your expertise if it is needed in the future.

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TIPS FOR CALLING YOUR CONGRESSIONAL OFFICE 

 

Especially when legislation is moving quickly through Congress, placing a phone call is the best way to influence your Member's vote.

  • Request to speak with the legislative aide who handles the issue you are calling about.
  • Identify yourself as a constituent and a member of the AACR. Ask to leave a brief message for the member of Congress. (Example: "As a constituent, I would like the Senator/Representative to support cancer research")
  • Briefly provide reasons for your support or opposition.
  • Ask where the member stands on the issue.
  • You may also ask for a written reply or a return phone call from staff.
  • Thank the staff member for his or her time.

Phone numbers can be found on the member's website, or the Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 can direct your call.

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TIPS FOR WRITING A LETTER OR E-MAIL

 

Members of Congress often gauge the importance of an issue to their constituency by the quantity of mail that they receive on that topic. 

  • Letters should contain all of the information you would include in a phone call or an in-person meeting. They are most effective when they are kept brief and provide relevant, credible data.
  • If you are using a form letter, take the time to add your own personal anecdotes about the importance of your research.
  • Keep in mind that congressional mail security screening processes can delay postal letters by days or weeks in addition to the normal mailing time. For that reason, it is recommended that your correspondence is sent by fax or e-mail.

Correct Form of Address:

U.S. Senators
The Honorable [First Name] [Last Name]
United States Senate
[Building and Office Number]
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator _________:

U.S. Representatives
The Honorable [First Name] [Last Name]
United States House of Representatives
[Building and Office Number]
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative _________:

 

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

From AACR:

External Links:

State Specific Data:

Please contact the AACR Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs with questions or for any additional information. E-mail us or call (202) 898-6499.

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