Invite Congress to Visit Your Museum
August 6-13, 2016
The Alliance “How To” Guide
State and district work periods are a critical and ideal time to connect with your legislators at your museum. August 6-13 is Invite Congress to Visit Your Museum Week 2016. The Alliance makes it easy to participate with this step-by-step "How To" guide.
Alliance Tip: Not the Director of your museum, but still want to get your museum involved?
Perhaps a formal invitation to Congress or your legislators shouldn't come from you, but instead from the Director or another colleague. This is a great opportunity to talk with the Director about why you think advocacy is important, and why you think participation in this field-wide effort will help your museum build important relationships and demonstrate to Congress the essential work of museums. Think of it as an exercise in “making the case”— and about how you can convey in a persuasive way why your museum shouldn't miss this opportunity.
- Follow Up with the office after sending the invitation.
Call the local office to find the name of the scheduler and call or email to follow up:
- “I’ve recently sent an invitation for Rep./Sen. ________ to visit my museum. Can I speak with your scheduler about this request?”
You can find the office’s local contact information, or visit the Congressional or legislature website for local contact information. We recommend starting with the local office, but be aware that every legislator has their own scheduling process, so you may need to flexible. Be specific about why you are calling and what you are asking the legislator or staff to do–namely, visit the museum.
- Continue following up over phone and email until a meeting is scheduled. If the member of Congress or elected official is not available the dates you originally suggested, offer alternate dates.
- Consider the message you want to convey and programs you want to emphasize, such as:
What makes your museum essential to your community?
- How much of your budget is dependent on charitable giving?
- What “unexpected” community programs are you offering?
- What under-served populations are you reaching?
- Have you received any federal grants?
See our Charitable Giving, IMLS and Education Issue Briefs. Visit our Advocacy and Issues pages for additional updated information about current legislation and issues affecting museums.
- Invite board members, volunteers and visitors who have been inspired by your museum to participate. Let them know what to expect during the visit.
- Confirm details with the legislator’s office and your colleagues, and be sure to invite local Congressional staff to join the member of Congress on his/her visit.
- Alert the media (before or after the visit) with photos, a press release, social media, etc. Members of Congress love media attention, so offer to coordinate with their office to maximize press coverage.
- Assign a staff person to take photos and notes during the visit to ensure proper follow up. Share the photos online or in your museum’s next newsletter.
- Learn more about your members of Congress (their interests, committees, and priorities) through their official websites (www.house.gov or www.senate.gov), the internet and their social media. Also check out the Alliance’s Legislative Record for 2015 (a members-only resource), so you can thank your legislators for any previous action to support museums.
Now you are ready for the visit!
Here are a few pieces of advice about working with Congress:
- Be flexible.
- Be succinct.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, that’s okay. Find out the answer and then follow up with the office.
- Make no assumptions about his/her knowledge of museums or the federal grant-making agencies.
- Get more tips on how to run an effective meeting with members of Congress.
Here’s a sample timeline for a site visit with a legislator:
- 10:00–10:15 am–Greet legislator and staff members at entrance/front desk.
- 10:15-10:45 am–Give the legislator and staff a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum or your collections, a tour of your newest or most innovative exhibit, or stop by a program that is taking place at the museum with students or other community members.
- 10:45-11:15 am–Meeting with legislator, staff and other visit participants. (Share your Economic and Educational Impact Statements.)
- 11:15-11:30 am–Wrap-up, final questions and comments from the legislator, final photos, and farewell to the legislator and staff.
- 11:30 am–Debrief with colleagues to gather notes and photos, complete your online meeting report form, plan any next steps or follow-up.
Here are some recommended follow up actions:
- Thank your members of Congress and elected officials for attending, and their staff that visited or helped schedule the event (email or handwritten note).
- Send any materials promised during the visit.
- Urge board members to send thank you notes.
- Report back to AAM on how the meeting went with our Online Meeting Report.
- Post photos and positive comments from the visits on social media (Facebook, Twitter).
- Be sure to tag your legislators accurately and use #InviteCongress on social media!
- Stay in touch–share updates on the museum’s ongoing work.
- Follow legislators on social media (Facebook, Twitter).
- Share any photos you took during the visit with the legislator’s office.
- Prepare an update on the visit to share with your colleagues and on your museum’s blog, website or newsletter.