Invite Congress to Visit Your Museum Week: August 12-19!

It’s time to show off your museum, and help make the case to our elected officials that museums are an essential part of our communities with the sixth annual, field wide “Invite Congress to visit Your Museum” week!

This initiative, started by the American Alliance of Museums, will take place August 12-19, 2017. Want to invite your elected officials to visit your museum but don’t know where to start? AAM makes it easy with these twelve steps:

  • Step 1: Find out who represents you in Congress and your state legislature. 
  • Step 2Send an invitation to your legislators’ offices.
    • Alliance Tip: Not the Director of your museum, but still want to get your museum involved?
      Perhaps a formal invitation to Congress or your legislators shouldn't come from you, but instead from the Director or another colleague. This is a great opportunity to talk with the Director about why you think advocacy is important, and why you think participation in this field-wide effort will help your museum build important relationships and demonstrate to Congress the essential work of museums. Think of it as an exercise in “making the case”— and about how you can convey in a persuasive way why your museum shouldn't miss this opportunity.                    
  • Step 3 : Follow Up with the office after sending the invitation.
    • Call the local office to find the name of the scheduler and call or email to follow up:  “I’ve recently sent an invitation for Rep./Sen. ________ to visit my museum. Can I speak with your scheduler about this request?” 
    • You can find the office’s local contact information, or visit the Congressional or legislature website for local contact information. We recommend starting with the local office, but be aware that every legislator has their own scheduling process, so you may need to flexible. Be specific about why you are calling and what you are asking the legislator or staff to do–namely, visit the museum. 
  • Step 4: Continue following up over phone and email until a meeting is scheduled. If the member of Congress or elected official is not available the dates you originally suggested, offer alternate dates. 
  • Step 5: Consider the message you want to convey and programs you want to emphasize, such as:
    • What makes your museum essential to your community?
    • How much of your budget is dependent on charitable giving?
    • What “unexpected” community programs are you offering?
    • What under-served populations are you reaching?
    • Have you received any federal grants?
    • See our Charitable GivingIMLS Funding and IMLS Reauthorization Issue Briefs. Visit our Advocacy and Issues pages for additional updated information about current legislation and issues affecting museums.
  • Step 6: Invite board members, volunteers and visitors who have been inspired by your museum to participate. Let them know what to expect during the visit. 
  • Step 7Tell us when the meeting will take place, or contact us with any questions you have. 
  • Step 8: Make your case. Complete an Economic Impact Statement and Educational Impact Statement so you can share them during the meeting. 
  • Step 9: Confirm details with the legislator’s office and your colleagues, and be sure to invite local Congressional staff to join the member of Congress on his/her visit.  
  • Step 10: Alert the media (before or after the visit) with photos, a press release, social media, etc. Members of Congress love media attention, so offer to coordinate with their office to maximize press coverage.  
  • Step 11: Assign a staff person to take photos and notes during the visit to ensure proper follow up. Share the photos online or in your museum’s next newsletter. 
  • Step 12Learn more about your members of Congress (their interests, committees, and priorities) through their official websites (www.house.gov or www.senate.gov), the internet and their social media. Also check out the Alliance’s Legislative Record for 2015-2016 (a members-only resource), so you can thank your legislators for any previous action to support museums.  

Don’t forget to take photos of your visits, and share on Facebook and Twitter with #SpeakUpOhio and #InviteCongress!

For more information and tips on how to prepare for your visits, be sure to check out AAM’s complete “How To” guide.

And don’t forget, Monday, October 2nd is the sixth annual Speak Up for Ohio Museums Day, a virtual advocacy campaign to once again address your elected officials. Stay tuned to the Ohio Museums Association for complete details on Speak Up day 2017, and for ways you and your museum can participate!

State and district work periods are a critical and ideal time to connect with your legislators at your museum, but there is no start and end date for advocacy – it is an imperative duty for every museum professional! When you make advocacy part of your normal operations, you are creating a win-win situation for both your museum and museums at-large.  Engaging in regular advocacy means, when the time comes, you will be in a better position to have a favorable impact on local, state, or federal policies that affect your museum.

Does your museum have a congressional visit or other advocacy actions in the works? Be sure to let us know!

Have a great “Invite Congress to Visit your Museum” week 2017! Let’s all do our part to speak up for Ohio museums!