Phone Call Guidelines

See our Weekly Action form on the Home page for specific direct, phone, and email actions needed this week. You can also use the Indivisible Guide’s Scripts page to get up to speed on issues and see sample call dialogues.

Calling Members of Congress is a tactic that is proven to work and is one of the core principles of the Indivisible movement. It takes as little as 30 seconds to make a call and make a difference. Below is a step-by-step guide for making your first call. Find the phone numbers for your Members of Congress on our Resources page. Additional resources for action include: 5 Calls, Indivisible NoVa’s Daily Action, and Indivisible’s Capitol Calendar.

Guidelines for 2 types of phone calls

You could make two types of calls depending on how much time you have. The first, the opinion tally, takes less than a minute and does not require discussing the details. The second, the conversation with a staffer, is more involved.

In both cases, prepare to discuss a single issue or ask a single question per call. Be clear and precise. If you muddle together multiple issues, the staffer will have to make a judgement on how to tally up your opinion.The call should be about a live issue — e.g., a vote that is coming up, a chance to take a stand, or some other time-sensitive opportunity. The next day or week, pick another issue, and call again on that.

Opinion tally call (30 seconds)

  • In an opinion tally call, you give the staffer just enough information to add you to the total number of constituents who support or oppose a bill or action. The staffer will likely be polite and professional, making this call easy and stress-free.
  • We are most effective when we all call about the same issue. See if Indivisible Arlington has a current call to action script available. If so, use that script (or create your own).
  • Do not end the call without making sure that they have your name and your zip code. In some cases, they may also ask for your street address to verify that you are a constituent.
  • This basic script will work for almost all cases. You can write out exactly what you want to say before calling to make it easier:
    Hello, my name is _____ ______ and my zip code is ______. (pause to allow staffer to write this down). I am calling to ask [Senator/Rep] ___________ to [support/oppose] [bill name/action]. This matters to me greatly because of ______. Thank you for your time.
  • Thank the staffer, using their name if you remember it.

Conversation with a staffer (5 minutes)

  • Be prepared to write down the name of the person you talk to and any specific information they provide, including direct quotes.
  • Be polite and calm through the entire interaction. Do not assume that the staffer disagrees with you or will try to argue with you. Assume good faith, and behave appropriately.
  • Call, state your name and that you are a constituent, and ask to speak to the staffer who handles the specific issue. In general, the staffer who answers the phone will be an intern, a staff assistant, or some other very junior staffer in the Member’s office. But you want to talk to the legislative staffer who covers the issue you’re calling about. Here are a few examples:
    Can I speak to the staffer who handles criminal justice issues?
    I would like to speak to the staffer who works on immigration.
    Can you confirm the name of the staffer who works on health care?
    (And a good catchall) Can I speak to the staffer who works on legislative issues?
  • Frame your issue as a question. Example:
    I am calling to ask how Representative/Senator _____ plans to vote on/take action on [clearly state the bill number or issue and why this issue is very important to you]. What is the Representative’s/Senator’s stance on this issue?
  • If the staffer says their opinion matches yours:
    Great. Representative/Senator _____ has my thanks for supporting this cause.
  • If the staffer says their opinion opposes yours:
    That’s disappointing to hear. [Share facts, statistics, or a personal story to support your opinion.] I am part of a local organized group of constituents and I shall be sharing Representative/Senator ______’s views with them.
  • If the staffer says that they do not know or that the Member of Congress has no official stance at this time:
    Do you have an email address that I can use to follow up later to see if Representative/Senator _______ has changed their mind? I am part of a local group of constituents that cares greatly about this matter so we will be calling and writing to find out more about Representative/Senator ______’s stance.
  • End the call politely, thanking the staffer for taking the time to work with you, even if you do not agree with them.
    Thank you for your time, [staffer’s name].

When do I call?

  • Call on weekdays during office hours (usually 8-5) and preferably not during lunch time. During lunch time, more of us are making calls and fewer staffers are available to answer the phone. We can be most effective by spreading our calls out throughout the day. Remember that if you call a Washington office (area code 202), the office is in the Eastern Time Zone.
  • If you have to call outside of office hours, you may have the opportunity to leave a voicemail. It is not as effective, but you are still making a difference.
  • If you get a busy signal, try again straight away.
  • Call about upcoming issues. Many bills and actions are proposed at the beginning of a legislative session, but your lawmaker cares most about your opinion during the week or two leading up to the vote for a bill.

If you’re directed to the legislative staffer’s voicemail…

  • You may wish to follow up with email. Getting more-senior legislative staff on the phone is tough. The junior staffer will probably just tell you “I checked, and she’s not at her desk right now, but would you like to leave a voicemail?” Go ahead and leave a voicemail, but don’t expect a call back. Instead, after you leave that voicemail, follow up with an email to the staffer. If they still don’t respond, follow up again. If they still don’t respond, let the world know that the Member’s office is dodging you.
  • Congressional emails are standardized, so even if the Member’s office won’t divulge the staffer’s email, you can probably guess it if you have the staffer’s first and last name.
    For the Senate, the formula is: StafferFirstName_StafferLastName@MoCLastName.senate.gov. For example, if Jane Doe works for Senator Roberts, her email address is likely “Jane_Doe@roberts.senate.gov”
    For the House, the formula is simpler: StafferFirstName.StafferLastName@mail.house.gov. For example, if Jane Doe works in the House, her email address is likely “Jane.Doe@mail.house.gov”