Organizing Guide

VisitThem allows advocacy organizations to mobilize their members to take action in-person at congressional town hall events and district offices.

We built VisitThem because personal stories told in-person are powerful. Read more about our motivations for building the platform

We support several varieties of campaign tactics to bring your members together with their elected representatives.

Office Visits

Days of Action

A day of action allows your organization to mobilize your members around a particular issue on a specific day. Email your members asking them to commit to show up at their local congressional office during a particular time period, say a certain day or a week, and equip them with talking points and even materials to drop off. The steady stream of individuals and small groups showing up is sure to get the attention of staffers and the representatives themselves.

Petition Deliveries

Petitions are a great way to demonstrate broad support around your organization’s issues, but congressional offices see so many that they are all too often ignored. Make your organization’s petition stand out by having members deliver portions of it to each local congressional office across the country. Either organize group visits or allow individuals to drop off signatures on their own. It’s an easy way to go from big, impersonal lists of names to real faces and stories.

Rapid Response

Sometimes you just don’t have the luxury of planning a day of action in advance. When fast-moving issues come up, you can use VisitThem to send your supporters to local offices with just a few hours notice. Representatives won’t be able to ignore the situation when their constituents show up at their office doors.

Action Center

You can also include a link to your VisitThem site in an action center on your main website. This use case, which is often a supplement to more targeted campaigns, allows members to get more involved, even if your organization isn’t currently running a campaign.

Basic Steps

  1. Set up a campaign in VisitThem. You can decide who you want to target – senators and/or representatives – and where you want to send your supporters – district offices and/or town hall meetings. You can also customize the branding, text of public-facing pages, emails, and talking points to reflect the issue you’re working on.
  2. Let your supporters know about the campaign through email and social media, and ask them to commit to a visit. (See our sample email below)
  3. Follow up with people who sign up to make sure they have what they need for a successful visit. This could include group conference calls or one-on-one emails, calls, or texts.
  4. Review report backs in VisitThem to find out how it went, and follow up again with your supporters as necessary. Encourage them to share their stories on social media and local media.

Strategies to Support Your Members

For many of your members, this may be the first time they’ve visited a district office, met a congressperson, or lobbied directly on behalf of an issue. Some of your members will feel passionate about the issue and interested in taking action, but may not feel comfortable going to an office without a clear idea of what will be involved. As an organizer, your expertise and guidance can be the difference between a good experience and a bad one – or no visit at all.

Action Guides

The easiest and most basic means of providing support for visitors it to write an action guide, which members can access after committing to visit. Basic action guides often include information about what members should do when they arrive at a district office (ask to see the representative or a member of their staff, speak politely and confidently, etc.).

More robust action guides may include space for members to think about their personal stories prior to the visit, talking points for the meeting, and steps to follow up with the organization after the visit is completed.

Webinars/Conference Calls

Often as a supplement to action guides, organizations may host webinars and/or conference calls to discuss strategies with visit planners. These group information sessions allow visitors to see the broader movement that they’re a part of and pose their questions directly.

High-Touch Follow Ups

If your organization has the capacity, you may want to take a higher-touch approach to member support. This can include direct emails, texts, and/or calls to members who have committed to visit their representative. Contacting a member directly will highlight the importance of their visit, allow you to thank them for their commitment to the cause, and answer any questions they may have.

Official Organization Events

Do you have a set of electeds – whether they’re known swing votes, caucus leaders, or committee chairpeople – that are hugely important to your cause? For these important visits, you may want to schedule official organization events. Have a staff member schedule a meeting at the representative’s district office and add that meeting to VisitThem. Your supporters in the area will be able to see the event in search results and come along.

Specific Asks / Actions

For many members, having a clear plan for the visit will help them feel more comfortable. Maybe your organization wants to use these visits as a way to find out where representatives stand on a certain issue. You can have your supporters ask their representatives to cosponsor a certain piece of legislation or make a commitment to vote in a certain way -- and then have your members report back on the response.

Alternatively, you can use these visits to remind representatives that your organization is paying attention to their votes. A campaign run on VisitThem asked supporters to bring highlighters (and candy) to the offices of representatives that voted the right way. For representatives who did not, the supporters were asked to bring erasers – to remind the representatives that they couldn't erase their vote from the organization’s memory.

Asking visitors to bring a small package, a letter, or a specific set of questions to their visit can help ground the visit and make the visitor feel more comfortable.

Setting Expectations

Most of the time, representatives won’t be in their district office at the time of the visit. The most likely scenario is that your supporters will get a minute or two to speak with the receptionist and drop off a personal note. But when representatives rarely hear from constituents at all, or are otherwise flooded with mass petitions and emails, a personal visit of any kind is extremely valuable! Preparing your members for likely scenarios will ensure a good experience and repeat visits.

A few offices may have restrictive access policies where you can’t get in without an appointment. If that’s the case, there’s still an important story to tell about elected representatives ignoring their constituents. When visitors are denied access, they should take a picture, tweet, share on Facebook, and write letters to the editor talking about how their officials are unresponsive. These people are supposed to work for us, after all!

Leveraging Social Media

Representatives care deeply about their image, particularly how they’re seen in their home districts. Showing up in person is powerful, and telling the story on social networks can further amplify your supporters voices. Did the supporter have a respectful visit with a member of staff? Have the member take to social media to thank their representative for hearing their concerns and remind them to vote correctly. Was your supporter ignored or stopped from entering the office? Sharing that experience, and reminding representatives that they work for us, can be a powerful narrative.

Town Hall Events

In addition to district offices, your organization can also ask supporters to attend congressional town halls. VisitThem’s robots and researchers are constantly scouring social media and official sites for these events, which can easily be included in search results.

Strategies to Support Your Members

Many of your members may not have attended a congressional town hall before. While attending a town hall is an easier ask than visiting a district office, it’s generally a longer time commitment and setting expectations is still an important part of ensuring a good experience for your members.

Action Guides

Like with district office visits, an action guide is an easy way to help your members prepare for the town hall. Basic action guides often include information about what members should expect at a town hall (arrive early and be prepared for security, prepare your question in advance, speak clearly and confidently, avoid yes/no questions, etc.). More extensive guides may provide sample questions and information about sharing images/videos with your organization.

Leveraging Social Media

Town halls are powerful because they force the representative to respond to questions and constituent stories in public. Ask that your members take video of the town hall – or recruit a friend to record the event – and then post the representative’s response to their question on social media.

Following Up

During town hall events, representatives are asked a lot of questions and they may not remember all of them. Encourage your members to follow up with their representative’s office in-person or by phone within a week of the event.

Sample email Asking Members to Visit Offices

Dear Jamie,

They’ve talked about this for a long time, but this week Congress has finally unveiled its tax “reform” plan. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look good -- at least not for anyone but millionaires and billionaires.

One of the reasons we’ve gotten to this point is the army of professional big-business lobbyists that roam the Capitol building in Washington, DC on a daily basis. It’s tough to go up against such deep-pocketed interests.

While we’d love to mobilize droves of citizen lobbyists, it’s just not that easy for most people to get to DC. But did you know that your senators and representatives all have local offices in their districts, ' many just a short drive from your home? Can you imagine what they would think if hundreds of constituents started showing up in person, demanding that any tax plan benefit ordinary people instead of the rich?

We’re going to do just that -- are you in?

Click here to find your nearest local office and set up a time to visit.

Showing up in person may sound intimidating, but it’s really not. These local offices are there to serve constituents, and you have every right to drop by and express your concerns.

You won’t be making an official appointment, but in most cases you don’t need one. The visit probably won’t take more than five minutes, and we just ask that you brush up on some talking points beforehand and write a personal note to leave behind. We also think it would be great if you could bring a picture of you, your family, or others in your community -- to remind them of the real people they need to be working for, not just their wealthy donors.

If you’d like to bring friends or join another supporter’s visit, you can do that during the signup process. The more, the more powerful!

Commit to visiting your local office in person this week.

Thank you for your support.