Congressional meeting prep
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Since 2007, Spitfire has partnered with The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Connect team to prepare Foundation grantees and partners to hold effective, focused meetings with members of Congress and other policy makers.
Participants learn how to research their policy makers’ interests and find the connections between their own work and the leaders’ priorities, and how to communicate how their work impacts and serves constituents on the local level. They also gain lasting skills in planning for policymaker meetings, crafting appropriate “asks” for each official, developing and delivering strategic stories that communicate the value of their work, and effectively following up with staff and members of Congress.
To date, Connect has prepared more than 500 RWJF grantees and partners for more than 1500 successful policy maker meetings on issues ranging from preventing teen dating violence and the trauma-informed care in schools to expanding opportunities for nurses and the importance of recess in improving children’s health and learning.
From the inception of the program, Spitfire worked closely with RWJF to develop the proven training curriculum for the Connect program. Each two-person Connect team receives several weeks of individualized coaching over the phone (plus group webinars on storytelling and other topics) before they come to Washington, DC. Once they arrive in the nation’s capital, final preparations include intensive realistic role-playing practice and presentation from current congressional staffers, before their coaches escort them to Capitol Hill for two days of meetings with their policymakers. Spitfire has also designed special Connect sessions that prepare participants for in-district meetings, meetings with administrative agencies, and meetings with state and local officials.
Spitfire’s coaches – many of whom have worked as staffers for senators, representatives or congressional committees – are able to share their real-world experience and their communications expertise to help participants prepare for and execute their meetings.
Although the Connect framework is built around preparing for specific meetings with members of Congress, the real goal of the program is to give participants the confidence and know-how to initiate and cultivate lasting relationships with the policymakers that matter most to their work. In fact, nine out of ten participants said they have continued to use the skills they learned through Connect to build relationships with other leaders in their communities.