The United States Congress is expected
to be on recess for much of August.
That means that legislators will be
in their home districts. It’s a perfect
time for community college leadership
to extend an invitation for a campus
visit. Despite having tight schedules,
members of Congress are usually eager
to visit their local community college
if they can.
“If you plan ahead and arrange for a
campus tour or event, you can showcase certain programs and/or partnerships of interest to your legislator
and engage him or her in a discussion
about your college’s importance to
the community,” says the American
Association of Community Colleges’
(AACC) Advocacy Toolkit.
The toolkit offers a number of tips
for hosting a successful campus visit.
Here are just a few.
DETERMINE THE GOALS FOR THE VISIT
Is there a specific program that should
be showcased—perhaps a federally
funded program been exceptionally
effective in addressing the needs of
special student populations? Or maybe
a program that addresses workforce
needs in the district? That could be of
special interest to a congressional delegation. Or is there a new initiative that
is showing signs of success but could
use some support? These are some
of the questions that should be asked
before an invitation is extended.
EXTENDING THE INVITATION
Draft a brief letter or email inviting the
member of Congress at least three to
four weeks prior to the event. Describe
the event, who will be present, and
explain why the member should visit
the campus. Also make sure to send the
invitation to the appropriate staffers.
Generally, invitations go to the scheduler
in the member’s Washington, D.C., office.
If there already are established contacts
in the office, such as with the education
staff, send the invitation to the copy the
staffer on the invite, too. If there’s no
response after the invitation is sent, don’t
be afraid to follow up.
PLANNING FOR THE MEETING/EVENT
Be prepared to provide a brief overview of the college’s mission, programs,
economic impact on the community and
student demographics. Also, identify
what federal programs may have helped
support specific programs or initiatives
on campus. Providing a one- or two-page
fact sheet about the college can be helpful.
It’s also useful to include the community
in the event. Invite students, parents,
business partners and other stakeholders
INVOLVE THE PRESS
In the invitation to the legislator, offer
to coordinate with his or her press office
if he or she would like to promote the
event. Develop a media advisory that
can be sent out in advance of an event.
Provide them with a college fact sheet,
and perhaps a series of one-pagers on
key programs and college initiatives.
Take many photos and disseminate
widely, including on the college website
and through social media.
One final piece of advice: Do not criticize other elected or public officials
during these meetings.
Hosting a campus event with legislators can be a lot of work, but it can
pay off by ensuring that they recognize
the importance of community colleges
and champion measures that will benefit
them and their students.
For more advocacy resources, check
out the Advocacy Toolkit online: https://
Being the advocate-in-chief
By AACC Staff