Straight to the Point Advocacy with Members of Congress


RSVP is at a critical pivotal point. It is important to take action now and to not stop. Our primary goal is to educate our Members of Congress.
 

The Presidents proposed FY19 budget recommends elimination of CNCS.
 

The President signed the FY 2018 Appropriations Act to freeze all Senior Corps program funding at the current level. However, there are several threats to RSVP. For more information on these contact NARSVPD President Betty Ruth at bruth@al-rsvp.com

  1. The Administration and House Republicans reported to be working on a proposal that rescinds or pares back funds appropriated in 2018.  No list of which programs might be included provided. They could look at the President’s budgets of which programs were proposed for elimination..

  2. House Republicans working on a proposal that would eliminate Senior Corps as we know it.  Change FGP and SCP to jobs programs paying minimum wage. This would cut participant to a third.  Proposal seems to turn RSVP into a voucher program.  Voucher offered to the placement entity of volunteer through the Department of Labor. Proposal would eliminate CNCS and shift administrative responsibility to the Department of Labor.

  3. Group of House Democrats creating Care Corps that is recreating RSVP and SCP as we know them.  (Note-Gene did not say FGP).

  4. Another proposal would give national service cabinet level status. The proposal is focused on young people not Senior Corps.

We are the educators. We are the frontline to share with Members of Congress (Representatives and Senators) regarding how our programs benefit our communities. It is always best for Members of Congress to hear from their constituents. Your advocacy does make a difference! Enlist sponsor, advisory council members, volunteers, local funders, volunteer stations, and elected officials (local and state) to advocate along with you. Together you can make a difference!

Establish a relationship. Your Members of Congress District Office staff are important people to develop a working relationship with. Staff members are a vital part of your elected official’s team, so it’s important to build a good relationship with them. Staffers advise their legislator on issues and can be key allies in influencing your elected official, they are your direct link and voice. They are who you turn to at any time with questions about what information you need to provide, and what others, who oppose RSVP (Corporation) funding or want to change how RSVP works, are saying as to why.

Be respectful and polite. You may not agree with how your elected officials stand on any given issue. They may be of a different political party or perhaps you feel they do not believe that support for RSVP is important. However, respect for differing views is a fundamental ingredient of effective advocacy. To gain respect, you must give it. Make contact and start building a work related relationship. You never know where we may find a champion for RSVP.

Raise your voice. One vital way to raise your voice is to help illustrate in concrete terms the adverse impact that steep cuts, completely changing RSVP as we know it, or proposed elimination of CNCS will have on the work we do and people we serve. Members of Congress should hear all the good impact RSVP has on beneficiaries (people and communities) in their district so tell your story. AND they should hear the impact of losing RSVP in their district.

Send letters. Letters to your Members of Congress are impactful. Go to your Members of Congress website to see how you can send, email or fax a letter. For letter templates, contact your NARSVPD Cluster Board member.

Set a meeting. Meet with District Office staff any time. You can meet your Members of Congress at home during recesses. Recess times: Memorial- May 28-32; July 4th- July 2-8; out all of August. If you are meeting to educate and to intentionally ask for their support of funding you will need to do it on own time.

  • Look on your District Office website for contact information to schedule with staff.

  • Each member of Congress has a scheduler in their D.C. office. You can find your member of Congress’ office phone number at www.house.gov/representatives or www.senate.gov/senators/contact. You can call the Capitol Operator at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senator. you can call 202-225-3121 to be connected to your Representative.

  • Make a meeting request. Call District Office to set a meeting with staff or D.C. scheduler to set up meeting day and time with your Member of Congress. When scheduling include the nature of your meeting request.

  • In addition send a formal meeting request as a follow up. This can be done via email. If meeting with Members of Congress copy your District Office staff contact along with the D.C. scheduler on email.

  • Be flexible regarding the date and time of the meeting. The more flexible you are, the better chance of meeting with staff but especially with your Members of Congress during recess.

  • If you have not received a response to a meeting request, call the District Office or Members of Congress scheduler to confirm they have received the request.

  • Once you have confirmation of meeting and its time frame consider inviting a couple volunteers and advisory council members to go with you.

  • Be on time for the meeting. Do not cancel meeting unless it is absolutely necessary and if you do, call ASAP to explain and set a new meeting day/time.

Set your agenda and remember education includes where RSVP comes from. Never assume that the person you are talking to knows what the Corporation for National and Community Service is or anything about RSVP. Ask them if they are familiar with CNCS, Senior Corps and RSVP.

It is important to note CNCS is our federal funder and we are part of Senior Corps. If they need additional background give a short explanation of the Corporation for National and Community Service and its core programs Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and the Volunteer Generation Fund, and state service commissions. Describe how your program is addressing and helping to solve community needs through volunteerism. Emphasize that RSVP is also National Service.

  • Your message should address news and facts pertinent to RSVP— impact of who, what, where, when, and why. State your position up front and clearly, providing background and context.

  • Describe how your program is addressing community needs through volunteerism.

  • Use relevant data and statistics to show the benefits your program is providing

  • If budget cuts have affected your program in the past, please explain how the cuts have affected your program’s ability to meet local needs.

  • Use the talking points put together by NARSVPD and touch on RSVP impact nationally to show our global picture. They can be found at www.narsvp.org

  • Review before meeting to make sure you stay within your allotted time frame if given one.

  • Request that your Members of Congress support RSVP funding.

  • Request their support for keeping RSVP intact and restoring our lost funding.

  • Request that Members of Congress also seek their colleagues’ support for RSVP.

  • If visiting staff, ask they relay your visit and information to your Members of Congress and ask if you can regularly send stories and pictures (if have) to forward on.

  • Within a day or two send a thank you for meeting and ask if they need more information sent pertaining to your visit. This can be done via email.

Leave information.

  • Your program information.

  • Impact statistics.

  • Business card.

  • RSVP State Association statistic information.

  • Your state’s one page summary. This can be found at www.nationalservice.gov

  • Copy of stories and pictures (if you have any).

If unable to meet in person with either your Members of Congress or their staff, start an email relationship with District Office staff. Contact the office to have an initial conversation with the appropriate staff and further your conversation via email/s. Ask they forward your information on to D. C. Also ask if you can regularly send stories and pictures (if have) for them to forward on. Always follow-up with a thank you.

Sending your program stories regularly keeps RSVP in the forefront and is best opportunity for continual education. The more they see and read “RSVP” in print along with Senior Corps and CNCS and that RSVP is National Service too, they will recognize the RSVP name whenever budget issues is brought to their attention.

Invite your Members of Congress to visit your program. A site visit is the best way to showcase your program and its importance and to build support. Recess times: Memorial- May 28-32; July 4th- July 2-8; out all of August.

Utilize social media. Educate through Facebook and Twitter.

  • Share your stories and pictures.

  • Share about meetings with Members of Congress and or staff. Do this the same day as meeting or the next day.

  • Use hashtags.

  • Tag NARSVPD and other RSVP project Facebook.

  • Tag your state office and CNCS Facebook.

  • Tag your Members of Congress Facebook.

  • Follow Members of Congress, NARSVPD, CNCS, and RSVP Directors on Twitter and post tweets.

Review and keep in mind regulations and prohibited political activity.

2553.91 What legal limitations apply to the operation of the RSVP Program and to the expenditure of grant funds?

(3) The sponsor shall not use grant funds in any activity for the purpose of influencing the passage or defeat of legislation or proposals by initiative petition, except:

(i) In any case in which a legislative body, a committee of a legislative body, or a member of a legislative body requests any volunteer in, or employee of such a program to draft, review or testify regarding measures or to make representation to such legislative body, committee or member; or

(ii) In connection with an authorization or appropriations measure directly affecting the operation of the RSVP Program.

To:           All Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) grantees, sponsoring organizations, and AmeriCorps members

From:      Jeremy Joseph, CNCS General Counsel

Date:       June 22, 2016

Re:           Election Year Reminder re: Prohibited Political Activity

As the 2016 election approaches, I want to remind the entire national service and Social Innovation Fund community that it is prohibited to use federal funds or resources for political activities or other activities for the purpose of influencing the outcome of any election to public office.  This applies to any election for federal, state, or local office. 

I am sending this message broadly to all CNCS grantees, VISTA sponsors, and AmeriCorps members (including AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps NCCC members).  Grantees, please deliver and emphasize this message to your sub-grantees, staff, and Senior Corps volunteers.

As with all prohibited activities, the goal isn’t just to follow the law but to avoid any perception that you are misusing federal resources.  Every single grantee is responsible to train its sub-grantees, staff, and members/volunteers on what activities are prohibited, and discuss them routinely to quickly identify and resolve issues.

As a general matter:  

Never mix election activity and CNCS resources—money or national service participants (AmeriCorps members, including VISTAs and NCCC, or Senior Corps volunteers). 

Specifically, don’t use federal funds, charge time to your grant directly or as match, accumulate service or training hours, or direct or allow national service participants to engage in prohibited political activities, which generally includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • organizing or attending political events, demonstrations, protests, petitions, rallies, etc.;

  • participating in, endorsing, or advocating for or against political parties, platforms, groups, or candidates;

  • conducting voter registration or other get-out-the-vote activity; and

  • posting election-oriented messages on social media (using CNCS funds or with reference to CNCS programs).

This is a general reminder, not a detailed summary of the law.  You can find the precise restrictions applicable to you or your program in your grant terms and conditions, member agreement, or related documents.

Of course, individuals may exercise their rights as private citizens to participate in political activities:

  • on their own initiative and personal time[1];

  • not affiliated with CNCS programs or supported by CNCS funds; and

  • not wearing any program insignia, logo, or uniform.

Again, it is very important to avoid any perception that CNCS resources (money or national service participants) are being misused.

Any questions about this reminder?  Grantees should consult with your CNCS program officer, and individual AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers should contact the programs you serve with.

[1] AmeriCorps VISTAs have additional restrictions on political fundraising that apply at all times (on- and off-duty).  

 

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