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Step 4: Prepare Your Ask

One of the most important things you can do for your issue is to come up with a solid “ask.” Since members and their staff have so much on their plates, it is important to give them a clear task to complete on your behalf. This could be as simple as co-signing a piece of legislation or including an issue in their annual appropriation letters to their colleagues on the appropriations committee

Here are some questions you should try to answer before developing your ask:  

  1. How does the issue split down the aisle? It is important to know how both sides of the political spectrum feel about your issue and why they might support or oppose changing legislation. 

  2. How has your member of Congress voted previously on issues related to yours? If they have voted in favor of your issue, great! If not, then you might have more work to do to convince them to fight on your behalf. Either way, it’s good to know whether a similar issue has come in front of your member before, how they voted on it, and why.

  3. Is there legislation already in action for your issue? If there is already legislation out there, make sure your member knows about it. If you want them to co-sponsor a bill, you will need to bring a lot of information on the proposed legislation to make this job as easy as possible for them. If there is no legislation, find out who the best person to write a bill would be.

  4. What committees and subcommittees deal with your issue? Members of Congress are more likely to help you with your cause if they sit on the committee that has jurisdiction over the issue.​

Here are some asks I have used in the past. I have: 

  • asked a member to co-sponsor a bill,

  • asked a member to include a request in their annual letter to the appropriations committees,

  • asked a member of Congress to speak about my issue on the House floor,

  • asked a member of Congress to hold a hearing on an issue,

  • asked a member of Congress to vote yes or no on a specific Bill,

  • asked a member of Congress to vote yes or no in a committee markup,

  • asked a member of Congress to add an amendment during a markup,

  • asked a member of Congress to publicly support an issue on social media,

  • asked a member of Congress to speak at a local event,

  • asked a member of Congress to meet with an influential constituent  like the CEO of a nonprofit located in their district.

Regardless of what the ask is, the most important thing is that you have one. Staffers would rather say no than sit through an in-person meeting without an ask!