Pressure Policymakers

Calling or writing your members of Congress is a great way to influence their opinion on issues and legislation. It only takes a few minutes and is an easy way to educate policymakers and urge them to join you in stopping Alzheimer's disease.

  • Meeting with Your Members of Congress:
    Before the Meeting

    One of the most effective ways to influence the policymaking process and build relationships is to meet with your Members of Congress, or their staff, in person. Members of Congress return to their districts/states frequently throughout the year. Visit your Member’s website to find the contact information for their district offices.

    Put in a Request for a Meeting

    First, you must request a meeting from the Congress member's scheduler. You should make this request by email or fax (so that it is in writing).Then follow up the initial request immediately with a phone call, since schedules may be tight. Many congressional offices now also make it possible to request a meeting on their websites.

    TIPS:

    • Suggest specific times and dates for the meeting.
    • Let the contact person know you'd like to discuss why stopping Alzheimer’s disease should be an urgent priority for our nation.
    • If the lawmaker is unavailable to meet with you, ask for a meeting with the staff member responsible for health issues.
    • If you have a previous relationship with your Member of Congress or their staff, mention it right away. Are you members of the same alumni association? Board of Directors? Did you attend a fundraiser or volunteer for their campaign?
    • Be respectful but be persistent! Make sure to follow up with the office if they don't get back to you. If they say they have no availability, call back in a couple of days and ask if there have been any cancellations.

    Prepare for Your Meeting

    • Do your homework.

    First, find out where your lawmaker stands on USAgainstAlzheimer’s policy priorities or if they’re a member of important committees like Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions or Appropriations. Visit the lawmaker’s website to find information on their positions on increasing funding for Alzheimer’s research, any remarks they have made addressing the Alzheimer’s crisis and for committee assignments.

    • Provide materials to support your position.

    Once you're familiar with your lawmaker’s positions and where the legislation stands, the next item on your agenda is assembling the materials you will need for your visit.

    The Learn More section of this toolkit contains the written information that you will provide to the lawmaker or his or her staff – bring copies of the fact sheets with you to leave behind with them!

    • Recruit attendees

    Inviting friends, family, fellow advocates and leaders from local health or caregiving organizations can be a great way to engage them in this campaign. They can also provide additional expertise and information to your lawmaker and show that the community supports stopping Alzheimer’s and increasing funding for Alzheimer’s research. If no one else is available to join you, one-on-one meetings are still extremely helpful.

    • Confirm and prepare for your meeting

    It’s important that you confirm your meeting with your lawmaker a couple of days before the meeting is to occur. You may also use this opportunity to schedule a follow-up meeting or conversation with a staff member to see if they need any additional information or have any updates following your visit.

    Also, make sure to prepare for the meeting in advance and go over what you’d like to say during the meeting – you can practice with a friend or family member. If you’re bringing others with you to the meeting, divide up roles among the group to make sure you are all on the same page about who will lead the meeting and who is responsible for what talking points. We recommend bringing a small packet of information for your lawmaker, including fact sheets from this toolkit, any recent/relevant local press clips or event coverage, and any constituent or organizational sign on letters. Finally, don’t forget to get directions to his or her office!

    Sample Meeting Request

    [Date]

    The Honorable [Insert your Representative or Senator's first and last names]
    [Insert the office address]
    [Insert the office city, state and ZIP Code]

    Dear [Representative [OR] Senator Insert your Representative or Senator's last name],

    [I/We am/are] writing to request a meeting with you at your district office in [insert the name of the city where you'd like to meet] on [date or timeframe]. [I/We] would like to discuss why stopping Alzheimer’s disease should be an urgent priority.

    As your constituent[s] and [an advocate/advocates] devoted to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s [who has/have been] touched directly by Alzheimer’s, [I/we] would like the opportunity to talk to you about the importance of addressing the Alzheimer’s crisis now. [I am/we are] fearful of the impact Alzheimer’s will have on [my/our] [family/families], state and country. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and there are currently 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, a number that is expected to triple over the next decade. American families and taxpayers spend $200 billion per year caring for those with Alzheimer’s and in ten years time, more than $2 trillion will have been spent on care for Alzheimer’s victims. [I/We] would like to discuss how you can help alleviate the burden of Alzheimer's and other high-cost chronic diseases on families in our [state/district] in the near future and help cure this devastating disease.

    [I/We] will follow up in the next few days with a phone call to schedule this meeting. If you have questions, please feel free to contact [me/us] at [Insert your phone number or e-mail address].

    Sincerely,

    [Insert your first and last name/s]
    [Insert your address/es]
    [Insert your city/ies, state and ZIP code/s]

    Need help or advice?
    Email takeaction@usagainstalzheimers.org

  • Meeting with Your Members of Congress:
    During the Meeting

    • Acknowledge support - Take a moment to acknowledge the lawmaker’s current support for any legislation he or she is already co-sponsoring or any past support he or she has given. Saying thank you is an important way to win further support.
    • Paint the big picture and the small picture - For example, one person might tell his or her story about how the proposed increases in funding for Alzheimer’s research could affect him or her personally (the small picture). Someone else could review current statistics and the impact that Alzheimer’s disease has in the United States and your state specifically (the big picture).
    • Tell your story - The most effective method of communicating the need for increased funding for Alzheimer’s research and why stopping Alzheimer’s should be a national priority is to tell your personal story. We have seen time and time again that personal stories change minds, and this is your chance to sell the need to stop Alzheimer’s.
    • Make specific, clear requests and ask for an answer - Often, the main reason groups have unsatisfactory meetings is that their requests are not clear and specific enough. Your elected officials need to know specifically what you want them to do (e.g. support the SPRINT Act, increase funding for Alzheimer’s research).
    • Be a resource for the policymaker and his or her staff - As an advocate devoted to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, you offer a unique perspective. Offer your time and assistance if he or she or a staff member wants to talk about your areas of interest and expertise in the future.
    • Provide material to support your position - Leave the office your contact information, a fact sheet and any relevant Letters to the Editor (LTE’s) that have been published in your local newspapers. If your policymaker has specific question that you can’t answer, promise to follow up with them later (and then do so!).

    Meeting with Your Members of Congress – After the Meeting

    • Follow up immediately with a thank you letter or email - Be sure to include any additional information you may have promised or that may be relevant to the issue. If you had others in the meeting with you, make sure you coordinate following up so that nothing slips through the cracks.
      • Who you met with
      • The date and location of the meeting
      • What you discussed
      • Follow up that needs to take place

    This information is important in our continued communications with members of Congress.

    • Post about your meeting on Facebook and Twitter- Share with your friends and followers your favorite part of the meeting. Review the social media guide in this toolkit for sample posts.
    • Stay in touch with your Member of Congress- This is only the beginning of a hopefully long, fruitful relationship! Reach out to the staff member or Member of Congress that you met with from time to time, to remind him or her that you are still paying attention. Ask if there are any updates. Call the office before any big votes that affect funding or research on Alzheimer’s. Stay tuned to action alerts from USAgainstAlzheimer’s – we’ll help you stay abreast of what’s happening on Capitol Hill and ways to leverage the relationship you’ve begun.

    Need help or advice?
    Email takeaction@usagainstalzheimers.org

    Meeting with Your Members of Congress – Sample Meeting Agenda

    Section 1: Introductions

    • Introduce USAgainstAlzheimer’s briefly.
    • Allow participants to say who they are and what they do in the community. Emphasize any commonalities they have with the Member – for example, same alma mater, a part of the same business industry...
    • Ask the Member of Congress and/or aides a question, to help get to know them better and break the ice. It can be topical, such as, “Has anyone in your life been affected by Alzheimer’s?” or more general, such as, "How long have you worked for [Member]?" or “Did your kids go to [local school district]?”
    • Briefly outline the issues you are there to discuss.

    Section 2: Acknowledgements. Acknowledge your member of Congress for any previous actions

    • If your group needs information about a specific representative or senator, email takeaction@usagainstalzheimers.org for help preparing and looking up past voting records.

    Section 3: Brief them on the issue

    • Explain national statistics to underscore that Alzheimer’s is a major, national crisis. Highlight the economic and social impact of Alzheimer’s.
    • Have someone tell a personal story and wrap that story into statewide or regional statistics. Practice this so that it comes across smoothly! Example: “My mother is an Alzheimer’s patient. Two years ago, she was a healthy, proud grandmother. Nowadays, she barely recognizes me and won’t talk to her grandchildren. My family spends thousands of dollars per month on her care, and it’s starting to take its toll. But it’s not just me. In [state] alone, [percentage] of residents are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s. Thousands of people just like me are struggling to make ends meet, which is why I’m here. We need your help.”
    • Ask if the Member knows the status of a current piece of legislation or issue in Congress. If not, explain it if you can.

    Section 4: Make an “ask”

    • What was your goal going into this meeting? Do you need the Member of Congress to cosponsor a piece of legislation? Vote a certain way on specific legislation? Support something in committee? Host a Congressional hearing or briefing? Now is the time to directly ask him or her to take a specific action.

    Section 5: Plan for follow-up

    • Set a specific timeline for follow-up with the congressional staff and ask if there is any specific, additional information they need. Be sure to have someone record your plan for follow-up.

    Sample Thank You Letter

    [Date]

    The Honorable [Insert your Representative or Senator's first and last names]
    [Insert the office address]
    [Insert the office city, state and ZIP Code]

    Dear [Representative [OR] Senator Insert your Representative or Senator's last name],

    Thank you for making [insert name of person you met] of your staff available to visit with [me/us] on [date]. [I/We] appreciate the time given to [me/us] and the cordial exchange we had with [him/her].

    [I am an advocate with USAgainstAlzheimer’s/USAgainstAlzheimer’s advocates participated in the visit] and [I/we] discussed why stopping Alzheimer’s disease should be an urgent priority for our nation and [insert other topics discussed]. As [an advocate/advocates] devoted to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s – [and/many of us] touched directly by Alzheimer’s and fearful of the impact it might have on [my family/our families], state and country – [I/we] urge you to support [my/our] goal of stopping Alzheimer’s disease. There are currently 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, a number that is expected to triple over the next decade. American families and taxpayers spend $200 billion per year caring for those with Alzheimer’s and in ten years time, more than $2 trillion will have been spent on care for Alzheimer’s victims

    [Insert personal story to illustrate how Alzheimer’s has impacted your life].

    I/We sincerely hope you will support legislation that will help alleviate the burden of Alzheimer's on families in [state/district] in the near future and that will help cure this devastating disease.

    Sincerely,

    [Insert your first and last name/s]
    [Insert your address/es]
    [Insert your city/ies, state and ZIP code/s]

  • How to Call Your Members of Congress

    Calling your Members of Congress or their staffs is an effective way to influence their opinions about issues or legislation. Members of Congress regularly ask their staffs to report on the opinions of constituents calling their offices and often keep track of the numbers of constituents weighing in on a particular issue.

    To call your Senators’ and Representative’s Washington, D.C. offices, call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. You can find out who your Senators or Representative are, as well as access their contact information, using these online lists and tools: http://house.gov/htbin/findrep?ZIP= for the House and http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm for the Senate.

    What to say when you reach the lawmaker’s office:

    Hello, my name is [your name] and I am a constituent and Alzheimer’s advocate in your [state/ district].

    I am calling today to urge Senator / Rep. ____ to do more to stop Alzheimer’s disease.

    Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and there are currently 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, a number that is expected to triple over the next decade. American families and taxpayers spend $200 billion per year caring for those with Alzheimer’s and in ten years time, more than $2 trillion will have been spent on care for Alzheimer’s victims.

    As a constituent, this issue matters to me because ___________[share your personal reasons for getting involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s]_________________________.

    I hope Senator / Rep. _____ will make Alzheimer’s the urgent priority it needs to be if we are to find a cure by 2020.

    [Leave your name, home address and phone number so the office can follow up with you.]

    Need help or advice?
    Email takeaction@usagainstalzheimers.org

  • How to Collect Letters of Support

    One of the most effective ways to educate and influence elected officials is to persuade local community leaders and influential organizations to write letters in support of USAgainstAlzheimer’s policy goals. These letters show the broad support for stopping Alzheimer’s within the official’s community.

    For example, you might ask local or state officials to write letters to your Member of Congress describing the impact Alzheimer’s disease has had in your community, or collect letters from the heads of local caregiver organizations to be delivered at an in-district meeting or lobby day. Please do not mail these letters – always send them electronically or deliver them at an in-person event – as mail to the U.S. Capitol takes a very long time!

    Below are some tips on how to write an effective sign-on letter that you may find helpful when asking individuals and organizations to write letters. You will also find a template letter in support of increased funding for Alzheimer’s disease research that can be customized.

    Tips for Writing an Effective Sign-on Letter

    • The organization should print the letter on their letterhead or include the individual’s return address at the beginning of the letter. Members of Congress and state legislators receive hundreds of letters every year from many different individuals and organizations. The address shows the office that the writer is a constituent, which lends weight to his or her argument.
    • Although you will send these letters electronically or deliver them in person, use the correct title and mailing address for your Member of Congress. If the organization or individual is addressing the letter to more than one elected official, include a mailing address for each official. Below is a guide to addressing the letter:

    The Honorable [Full Name of Representative]
    United States House of Representatives
    Washington, DC 20515

    The Honorable [Full Name Senator]
    United States Senate
    Washington, DC 20510

    • Make sure that personal stories or state-specific information are included in the letter. The template is simply a starting point. When asking for letters, remind the writers to customize the template based on their experiences with Alzheimer’s disease. Personalized information enhances their arguments and gives elected officials background on the devastating impact Alzheimer’s has on families and communities.
    • Remind writers to check spelling and grammar. Even the smallest mistakes can lower the credibility of their argument.
    • Ask the organizations or individuals to send you a final copy of the letter. Copies of the letter are useful for you to use during meetings with elected officials as evidence of the community support around the USAgainstAlzheimer’s campaign.

    Need help or advice?
    Email takeaction@usagainstalzheimers.org

    Sample Letter in Support of Alzheimer's research funding

    [Date]

    The Honorable Members of the United States House of Representatives
    Washington, DC 20515

    The Honorable Members of the United States Senate
    Washington, DC 20510

    Dear Member of Congress:

    As advocates and organizations devoted to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s - many of us touched directly by Alzheimer’s and fearful of the impact it might have on our families, state and country - we are writing to urge you to support increased funding for Alzheimer's research.

    Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, and the only disease in the top 10 with no disease-modifying treatment or cure. There are currently 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s – a number that is expected to triple in the coming decades. In addition, nearly 15 million Americans serve as unpaid caregivers to loved ones who suffer from the disease, and Alzheimer’s is estimated to cost our nation $200 million this year alone, 70 percent of which will be borne by Medicare and Medicaid.

    For every dollar the federal government spends today on the costs of Alzheimer’s care, it invests less than a penny in research to find a cure. Unless a cure or treatment is discovered, the cumulative cost to care for Americans with the disease over the next 10 years will amount to $2 trillion – $20 trillion over the next 40 years. Alzheimer's disease and other high-cost chronic conditions pose significant challenges to the public health – and fiscal health – of the nation.

    We have two fundamental choices when it comes to paying for Alzheimer's and other high-cost diseases. One choice is to incur ever-increasing health care expenditures projected to exceed, in the case of Alzheimer's disease alone, $1 trillion annually by 2050. The second is to increase funding for Alzheimer’s research and accelerate the discovery and development of therapies to prevent and effectively treat the disease, enabling patients to live healthier and more productive lives.

    Earlier this summer, the House of Representatives and Senate proposed bills that would move Alzheimer's funding to record levels, with at least a $300 million increase. But our fight is far from over, and we have to stand together to reach the $2 billion researchers say we need to end Alzheimer's. Soon, Congress will start finalizing the budget – and everything will be on the chopping block. But we can ensure Alzheimer's funding makes the cut if we make our voices heard today.

    We, the undersigned organizations, urge you to support an increase in funding for Alzheimer's research. Chronic diseases don't know politics. Help alleviate the burden of Alzheimer's and other high-cost chronic diseases on families across the country in the near future and help cure this devastating disease.

    Sincerely,

    [Individual/Organization Names]

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