2014 August Recess Toolkit

Over the past year, brain tumor advocates have contacted their members of Congress regarding public policies that affect the brain tumor community. Brain tumor advocates have been very successful in securing the support of their elected officials for increased medical research funding, access to life saving chemotherapy medication, and increased resources for pediatric cancer research and drug development. 

The upcoming Congressional Recess from August 2 to September 7, when legislators leave Washington, D.C. and spend time meeting with their constituents in their home districts offers a great opportunity to continue the momentum created from advocacy events like our Head to the Hill and others. This is a great time to connect with your elected officials, build a relationship and let them know how they can take action to support brain tumor patients and families in their district.

We have created a toolkit to give you all of the resources you need to connect with your member of Congress during the August recess. Follow the links below to learn about the issues and find out how to schedule a meeting or visit the office of your elected officials:

Questions? Please contact Lainey Titus Samant, Associate Director of Public Policy, at advocacy@braintumor.org or 617-231-6310.

Learn the Issues

We want to use the August Congressional recess as a chance to advocate with our members of Congress on the following issues: medical research funding, oral chemotherapy parity, and pediatric cancer research and drug development.

Below are a number of links to provide more information on each topic.

The first link is a downloadable PDF that advocates should bring with them to any meetings or drop-offs. This document includes a brief description of each of the individual policy matters. In addition, there are links to issue briefs on each of these policy matters, separately. Because these are more in-depth than the document you’ll be bringing with you, they are very helpful tools for educating yourself on the issues in advance of the meeting. Finally, we have included an information sheet on brain tumors in general to give you some background, statistics, and facts.

Questions? Please contact Lainey Titus Samant, Associate Director of Public Policy, at advocacy@braintumor.org or 617-231-6310.

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Meet with your Members of Congress

Now that you have information on all of the policy matters we are advocating for, it’s time to schedule a meeting with your member of Congress. The following is a step-by-step guide to setting up a potential meeting:

  • If you’re not sure who your members of Congress are, you can look them up at: www.house.gov and www.senate.gov
  • On the same websites, you can find contact information for their offices. The first choice would be to call their district office. If there is more than one, pick the one closest to you. If there is no district office number, feel free to call their Washington, D.C. office.
  • Below is a sample script for when you call their office:   

    “Hi, my name is ____________ and I live in _______. I am a constituent of _____ and a volunteer brain tumor advocate with the National Brain Tumor Society and I was wondering if (Representative/Senator’s name) would be able to meet with me while she/he is home for the August Recess to discuss important public policy matters affecting the brain tumor community?”
  • If your Member of Congress is able to meet, that’s great! Schedule the meeting and start preparing (i.e. reviewing the information in the “Learn the Issues” section. See more below).
  • If he or she is unavailable to meet, ask if you can meet with a member of their staff. Meetings with staff are just as important as you are building a relationship with someone that can advocate on your behalf directly with the member of Congress. Gladly accept any offer to meet with a staff member in the District Office.  
  • If no one is available to meet with you during August, don’t give up! Stop by the office and drop off information to be shared with your Legislator.

Before the meeting:

  1. Planning and preparation are keys to success. It is important to plan out the purpose of the meeting and the strategy for educating or persuading the elected official. If you plan on attending with friends, family, or other advocates in the area, talk together to create your plan.
  2. Research your elected official. In addition to reading the information on his or her Congressional website, ask your friends and neighbors. Since your Member of Congress lives in the area, you could have friends in common, have attended the same school, or go to the same church. It’s good to know that information and mention it during your meeting to make a personal connection.
  3. If you are attending the meeting as a group, determine a group leader and decide on roles for each person attending the meeting.
  4. Prepare information to use in the meeting:

Make sure you arrive at the office at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled meeting time, both to find the office and let them know you’re there, as well as to go over your game plan with other volunteers if you’re meeting in a group.

During the meeting:

  1. Be sure to properly introduce everyone in your group.
  2. Open about the importance of the problem for which you need the elected official’s attention.
  3. Be personal. Let your legislators know about the personal connection you have to the specific brain tumor public policy issue you are talking about.
  4. Provide the most important reasons you are seeking a particular policy solution and provide the data to support it.
  5. Most importantly – remember to ask the legislator for their support. It is ok to ask the legislator questions about their position on the issue(s). It is also acceptable to ask a legislator to defend their position if it differs from your views. But remember to always remain respectful.
  6. Build productive relationships – The meetings are opportunities to create positive relationships for the future. The current policy issue will not be the last one you want to work on with an elected official.
  7. Don’t bluff.
  8. If you are asked for information you don’t have, just tell the elected official that you will get them the information they seek, and contact the National Brain Tumor Society after the meeting for that information.
  9. Thank elected officials when appropriate. You can follow these links to find out which legislators have co-sponsored Oral Chemotherapy Parity (HR 1801/S. 1879) and the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Reauthorization Act (HR 2607/S. 1251).
  10. Do not be partisan as a volunteer of the National Brain Tumor Society. Please do not make comments that are politically leaning or charged. National Brain Tumor Society works with elected officials in a nonpartisan manner.

Telling Your Story: 

One of the most important things you can do during your meeting is to share your connection to the public policy issue you are advocating for. Telling your story of how you are connected to brain tumors can be an emotional experience. If you feel comfortable, a few tips for telling your story include: 

  • Tell your story chronologically
  • Describe how you are alike or different from those who would benefit from the public policy you are advocating for
  • Be as brief as possible while still being complete
  • Connect your story to what you are asking the elected official to do

By following the tips above, you can have a productive meeting with your elected officials during this August recess. Good luck, and don’t forget to tell us how it goes.

Questions? Please contact Lainey Titus Samant, Associate Director of Public Policy, at advocacy@braintumor.org or 617-231-6310.

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ATTEND A TOWN HALL MEETING

Many members of Congress hold Town Hall Meetings in August as a chance to hear from many of their constituents at one time. To find out if there is a meeting scheduled in your area, call your Representative or Senator’s office and ask if he or she will be hosting any Town Hall meetings.

Not sure who your Representative or Senator is? Go to www.house.gov and www.senate.gov to find their name and contact information.

Depending on the format of the meeting, you can either ask a question during the meeting, or speak to your elected official or a member of his or her staff prior to, or at the conclusion of, the meeting.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for successfully participating in a Town Hall Meeting:

Before the Meeting:

At the Town Hall Meeting:

  • Make your presentation/Ask your question
    • Explain why the issue is so important to you and how your legislator’s support can make a difference for you and others in the community.
    • Open about the importance of the problem for which you need the elected official’s attention.
    • Be personal. Let your legislators know about the personal connection you have to the specific brain tumor public policy issue you are talking about. However, try to tell your story in two minutes or less, as there will be many others in attendance who will want time to speak.
    • Provide the most important reasons you are seeking a particular policy solution and provide the data to support it.
    • Most importantly – remember to ask the legislator for their support. It is ok to ask the legislator questions about their position on the issue. It is also acceptable to ask a legislator to defend their position if it differs from your views. But remember to always remain respectful.
    • If you are asked for information you don’t have, just tell the elected official that you will get them the information they seek, and contact the National Brain Tumor Society after the meeting for that information.
    • Remember to be respectful. You want to leave a good impression on the legislator and his/her staff so that future interactions are positive. It’s also a chance to find support from other audience members, so be receptive to others who approach you after the meeting.
    • Thank elected officials when appropriate. You can follow these links to find out which legislators have co-sponsored Oral Chemotherapy Parity (HR 1801/S. 1879) and the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Reauthorization Act (HR 2607/S. 1251).
    • Do not be partisan as a volunteer of the National Brain Tumor Society. Please do not make comments that are politically leaning or charged. National Brain Tumor Society works with elected officials in a nonpartisan manner.

Before/After the Town Hall Meeting:

  • Find staff members
    • It is important to build positive relationships with the legislator’s staff members. They will be the ones answering the telephone or responding to your email in the coming months and years, and also have the ear of the legislator when it comes to policy matters. Make sure to seek them out, talk to them, and tell your story. Provide them with the leave behind flyer (link) and ask for their business card. Also ask if they would be the best person on staff for you to follow up with. If not, ask if they can put you in touch with the most appropriate staff member.
  • Follow up
    • Make sure to follow up after a Town Hall Meeting with a phone call or email to the congressman’s office, preferably to the staff member you met. This is another chance to share your story and ask for support of the policy issues you are advocating for. It also will help solidify the relationship and allow you to continue the dialogue in the coming months and years.

Questions? Please contact Lainey Titus Samant, Associate Director of Public Policy, at advocacy@braintumor.org or 617-231-6310.

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DROP BY A DISTRICT OFFICE

If a meeting time isn’t available with your member of Congress or a staff member, you can stop by their district office during regular business hours to drop off information on the policy matters affecting the brain tumor community.

If you’re not sure who your members of Congress are, look them up at: www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.

On the same websites, you can find a listing of office locations. Find the location in your state, and if there are multiple locations, pick the one that is closest to you.

Print out a copy of this flyer to bring with you to the office, and bring either a business card or a notecard with your name and address on it. Once you’re there, you can speak to the staff member at the front desk. Here’s a suggestion on what you could say:

“Hi, my name is ____________ and I live in _______. I am a constituent of ______ and a volunteer brain tumor advocate with the National Brain Tumor Society. I wanted to leave some information here to pass on to the Representative/Senator while she/he is home for the August Recess. This flyer has information on the policy matters affecting the brain tumor community, including medical research funding, access to lifesaving oral chemotherapy medication, and pediatric cancer research and drug development. Could you please pass this on to (Representative/Senator) (NAME)? Thank you for your time and attention.”

Questions? Please contact Lainey Titus Samant, Associate Director of Public Policy, at advocacy@braintumor.org or 617-231-6310.

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SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR

While meeting directly with your member of Congress is the most effective way to inform him or her of the needs of the brain tumor community, there are also ways to spread awareness and continue the conversation publically. One way is to submit a letter to the editor in your local newspaper. Links to a few sample letters are below. Please pick whichever one is most relevant to your experience. Below are instructions on how to submit your letter.

2014 August Recess Drop off at Office

2014 August Recess Town Hall Meeting

2014 August Recess Held Meeting

How to Submit a Letter to the Editor:

Most publications make finding their specifications for submitting a letter to the editor fairly simple. 

ONLINE: Most publications that have a corresponding website, have a page (or part of a page) dedicated to how to submit a letter to the editor. Some provide an email address, while some others have a form online where you can type (or cut-and-paste) your letter to the editor and then, simply, hit “send.”  

This information is usually found from the website's "Contact us," "Submissions," "Help," or "About Us" pages, which can typically be found as links either along a top menu bar, sidebar, or in the footer of the webpage (all the way at the bottom). Some even have a direct "Letters to the editor" links from the homepage. Others will list information on submissions within the "Opinion" section of the website.  

IN PRINT: Most papers run their letters to the editor on the "Opinion Page(s)." The Opinion Page(s) will typically list contact information for where to send letters, as well. Other places contact information in a print publication maybe found is inside the front cover (page) or back page.

FOLLOWING UP: It is recommended that if you do not receive a reply within a couple of days of submission, to follow-up by phone and ask if they have received your letter and whether they plan to publish it or not. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to media@braintumor.org.

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Engage on Social Media

Make sure to join our Facebook event page, "I Took Action in August!" to share your experiences with other advocates, ask questions, and find more resources. 

Finally, you can check if any of your Senators or Representatives are on Twitter or Facebook (most are!) and send them thank you messages for meeting with you, or links to more information. 

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Send Us Your Feedback

Once you have completed your August Recess activity or activities, let us know how it went!

Please follow this link to fill out a feedback form on your action. 

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