Who to Invite:
The first step may seem obvious, however there are important considerations in determining who to invite for the tour. While this document focuses on tours for Members of Congress given the federal role in regulating clean water, the importance of tours extends to state and local representatives driving state or local laws and regulations. Therefore, consider extending an invitation to your state and local elected officials or planning multiple tours, especially if they are particularly active on water issues.
Members of Congress have busy schedules with significant time spent away from home, so coordination can be challenging. Therefore, while it is generally always a good idea to extend the Member of Congress an invitation, if they’re unavailable it may still be beneficial to schedule a tour with his/her congressional staff who wield significant influence in the legislative process. Also consider inviting press for the event – but if a Member of Congress will be attending, be sure to clear any press presence with the elected official’s staff first.
Sending the Invitation:
The keys to organizing a facility tour are maintaining flexibility and getting your invitation(s) out in time to ensure proper notice. Send a letter at least one month in advance, describing what the agency does and what you would like to highlight in the tour, as well as a time estimate. To ensure your request is received, consider scanning the letter and emailing it to members of the congressional staff. When inviting a Member of Congress, be prepared for last-minute scheduling adjustments.
The perfect time to schedule a facility tour is when Congress is on recess—officially called an “in-state” or “in-district” work period. These occur periodically throughout the year. While many congressional recesses occur during the holidays, other common recess periods include:
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (mid-January)
- President’s Day (mid-February)
- Easter/Passover (March or April)
- Memorial Day (mid-May)
- July 4th (early July)
- Summer Recess (August-Labor Day)
- Columbus Day (early October)
- Veterans Day (early November)
- Late Fall (third week of December)
Tracking Invitations & Follow-up:
Unless you have a direct connection with the Member’s office already established, contact the scheduler in the district office to extend the invitation. Anticipate that you may need to follow-up to ensure the invitation has been received as schedulers typically receive numerous requests for site visits, events, and rallies on any given day. Again, flexibility is key, so don’t get discouraged if the legislator or staff does not have time for a full tour. You can also offer to host a brief on-site meeting, or to provide a briefing at the legislator’s office, and even leave the date open ended so that the scheduler knows the legislator may be able to stop by if she/he has a change in schedule. In the event a tour is not possible, you can use pictures or a slideshow to provide a “virtual tour.”
Communication & Coordination
Once the scheduler confirms the meeting, begin planning the time frame and specifics of the facility or project you would like to highlight on the tour. Work with the scheduler to determine how much time the legislator has for the visit. Review any relevant Committees, Caucuses, or legislation the Member is actively involved with for additional ideas of which aspects of your agencies’ work might be of greatest interest.
In addition, announce the date with your staff and consider inviting various staff them to attend the meeting to highlight their various roles within the utility. If members of your Board of Directors are available, be sure to invite them to meet with the legislator.