3 topics to discuss during the August recess

Photo by SDI Productions/Getty

Here’s how to schedule a meeting with your member of Congress during their August recess.

By Mary Randolph Gannon and Aaron Stetter, ICBA

Congress is out for the month of August, but that doesn’t mean members of the Senate and House of Representatives have turned on their out-of-office messages.

The August recess is a time when many members meet with constituents, including community bankers, in their home districts. It’s a tremendous opportunity to build a personal relationship with a member of Congress or foster an existing one. From scheduled meetings and in-bank visits to fundraisers and other community events, it’s a chance to show support to members who understand the important role community banks play in their local communities and reach out to those who are still learning.


How to schedule a meeting

While many community bankers have built long-term relationships with members over the years, others are just starting out, either because they are new to the process or are connecting with a newly elected member. Reaching out to a member of Congress and their staff to schedule a visit may seem intimidating, but it’s actually a welcome invitation. Members of Congress want to know what’s going on in their districts and recognize that community bankers are respected and informed members of the community.

It’s also surprisingly easy, whether you prefer virtual or in-person meetings. You can also sign up for your member’s newsletters and follow them on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up with them.


Request a meeting

Many lawmakers have an online meeting request form on their website or outline their preferred method of setting up a meeting. If there’s no form or instructions, use the contact information to email or fax the request to their office. ICBA makes this process easy with draft meeting request letters on the Be Heard grassroots webpage.

Be sure to personalize the letter with your contact info and any specific issues you would like to discuss, such as regulatory relief or unfair credit union competition. These details make it more likely you’ll be able to secure a meeting. After you submit your request, call the scheduler to confirm they have received it. It might take some follow up to schedule the meeting, so be persistent.

Don’t be discouraged if you are offered a meeting with staff. They are valuable contacts and extremely influential.


Secure a meeting

When working with the scheduler, remind them of how you’d like to meet, whether virtually or in person. If looking to host your lawmaker at your community bank, emphasize who will be in attendance, what will be discussed and exactly why you would like to meet with the lawmaker. These kinds of specifics make it more likely the request will be approved.


Notify ICBA and your colleagues

Once you’ve confirmed a meeting, let ICBA know so we can provide any resources, including one-pagers on the top issues facing the industry and data on the community banking impact in your state or local district. We can even make an ICBA government affairs representative available to call into the meeting to discuss technical policy questions. However, lawmakers will be most eager to hear from you.

Don’t be afraid to tell your community bank colleagues and state association about the meeting and invite others to attend. There is strength—and influence—in numbers.


Meet your representative

Whether it’s at your community bank, a video call, a congressional district office or a town hall forum, make your case patiently, courteously and with confidence. Illustrate the direct impact of specific legislation on the local community, be prepared to answer questions and use social media to amplify your message.


Be specific and follow up

Always close the meeting with a specific request for the legislator, such as cosponsoring or voting in favor of a specific bill. Afterward, tweet a picture of the meeting tagging the lawmaker, ICBA and #communitybanks in addition to sending a traditional thank-you note. Let ICBA know how your meeting went, including if the legislator is open to supporting ICBA-advocated legislation.


ICBPAC support

One way ICBA supports community banker relationships with members of Congress is through ICBPAC in-district check presentations. Every year, community bankers representing ICBPAC deliver campaign contributions to the campaigns of lawmakers who have supported community banking initiatives. In 2020, ICBA leadership bankers presented more than $80,000 to 55 different members—a practice ICBPAC has continued this summer.

Whether it’s at an in-bank meeting or a fundraiser, this is yet another way ICBPAC is a valuable tool to cultivate relationships with members of Congress and support community bank champions.

As August presents opportunities to reach out to lawmakers, be ready to embrace these opportune moments—and don’t be afraid to take the initiative. Your voice is important, your input is welcome and no one makes a better case for your community and your industry than you do.

Meetings on Main Street Guide

Don’t know where to start with reaching out to your members of Congress? Download ICBA’s guide to hosting legislators at your community bank and check out the latest issues, track key legislation and meet ICBA’s advocacy team.

Mary Randolph Gannon (maryrandolph.gannon@icba.org) is ICBA’s vice president of political operations

Aaron Stetter (aaron.stetter@icba.org) is ICBA’s executive vice president of policy and political operations