August 25, 2016
Some staff in Washington, D.C. live for August recess (or the “August work period” as others call it). No joke. Members return to their states and districts for the month, votes are put off until September, and the entire city slows down – partially from the extreme heat, but mostly from a break in the action.
Staff often find themselves taking a much-needed and well-earned vacation. However, although the voting comes to a halt, the work does not. Ergo, advocacy efforts should not halt either.
Is a group using the August recess to advance its cause? How can a group make good use of the downtime?
Visit with staff. Even though some people are traveling some of the time, the offices are still open. Take the time to catch-up with staff members and introduce yourself to new staff. August is far more casual and laid back in Washington, which means staff may be able to have a more natural conversation, instead of rushing through the issues. Plus, since it is a more casual work period, the dress attire can be a little more casual too, i.e. men can likely forgo the ties. If a group will not physically be in D.C. in August, leave a voicemail or send an email with an update the staff member may be interested in.
Catch-up on legislation. There is a break in the flow right now when legislation is not moving. It is a perfect time to review important pieces of legislation to see where they stand, what is needed, and potential outcomes for later in the year.
Check-in with industry colleagues and association partners. These folks are also enjoying the August recess and catching-up on items that might have fallen by the wayside during session. Ask what they are working on. Start a conversation. If an advocacy group is not a part of a relevant trade association, now might be a good time to investigate those associations, reach out, and even see if the group might benefit from a membership or partnership.
Pay attention to the district. The member is often back in the district for the August work period. If she is holding an event or town hall, attend it and greet the official and her staff either before or after. The relevant D.C. staff person may also return to the district during August for a few days – find out and offer to meet with him there or offer to take him on a company tour.
Congress returns to session after Labor Day, which means there is still some time to take advantage of the slower pace to enhance relationships and catch-up. If this August flies by, make a note in the calendar for next June to start thinking about the August plan. Or, create an actual August folder on your desk and computer to store interesting articles or ideas throughout the year. This way, when time permits in August, those materials worth exploring more in-depth are easily accessible.
In the end, every month is a good month to advocate.