Staff members are often overlooked when seeking to "meet with Congress". Some people construe a visit from a lawmaker's staff instead of the actual lawmaker as a slight to their cause. This is an enormous misconception.
Congressional staffers are a vital part of every member's office. If you are offered the opportunity to meet with a lawmaker's banking or financial services staffer, you are being handed an excellent opportunity to create a relationship that can delve much deeper on substance and issues than most Members of Congress have the time to devote. Meetings with staffers can generally be much larger in scope, and longer in length than the usual meeting with a Representative or Senator. The opportunity to demonstrate the "big picture" of how your bank is impacting the community is only limited by your own time and creativity.
Staffers may be familiar with banking from a customer perspective, but often the inner mechanics of a community bank are not obvious. A "Community Bank 101" might go far in creating a basic understanding of how a loan is processed from end-to-end, or an explanation of the structure of the staff at the bank and how the limited resources available that can be encumbered by the increasing regulations.
A model example of a meeting with a staffer was on display in August 2011, when ICBA member and President of the People's Bank Co., Jack Hartings in Coldwater, OH, hosted the Staff Director of the Senate Banking Committee Subcommittee on Financial Institutions. A brief glance at the agenda for the meeting shows that Jack and his bank's staff covered everything from regulatory burden on smaller institutions, the application to closing process for a consumer real estate loan, burdensome exam preparation, and a harsh exam environment. They even took the staffer on a driving tour to visit small business and farm customers in the area, emphasizing the strong ties between the bank and the community. Not every meeting will allow for this sort of scope or depth, but it serves as an excellent model for how to engage lawmakers and their staff.