Email or Written Letter
Contacting your elected officials is one of the easiest and most effective ways to advocate for change. Keep these tips in mind when writing your letter or email:
- Be sure to address them properly, using their title, if applicable – “Rep.______ ” or “Senator ______”
- Keep it brief. Your letter should be no more than one page in length. Officials and their aides read several letters on several issues every day. You should only focus on one issue per letter.
- State who you are and what you want in the first paragraph. Make sure to indicate that you are a constituent and give your address for confirmation. Be as specific as possible. If you are writing regarding a specific legislation, be sure to indicate the name (H.R.____ or S. ____).
- Hit the three most important points that would be the most effective in persuading your official to support your position. Do not just indicate that you do or do not support something; tell them WHY.
- Personalize your letter. Tell them why you think this matters to your community or your state. Include a personal story if you have one.
- Personalize your relationship with them. Indicate if you voted for them, or donated to them. If you met them somewhere or heard them speak at some point, let them know. The closer they feel to you, the more powerful your argument will be.
- Be courteous and to the point, but don’t be afraid to take a firm position. Request action. Ask the official to support or co-sponsor a current bill, or hold a hearing.
- Ask them to reply to your letter. Ask them to state their position on the issue. Remember to include a return address.
- Follow up. If you do not hear within a week, write another letter and ask them to state their position. If they complied with your request (voted for a specific bill), send a thank-you! They will appreciate it!
Making a telephone call is often seen as more difficult than writing an email, letter, or tweet. Remember that a small number of phone calls or letters are often seen as representing an entire constituency. When a phone rings at a legislator’s office, they are obligated to answer. These tips will hopefully make the phone call easier for you:
- Be prepared. Keep a cheat sheet or a script with you so you can reference it if needed. Do the research before, if needed, and plan what you are going to say.
- The official will rarely answer her or his own phone. Ask to speak with the aide who handles the issue you are calling about.
- Identify yourself with your name and address. Let them know you are a constituent.
- Be brief and to the point. State your position and ask what the official’s position is. Ask for a commitment.
- Be specific – identify the legislation you are referencing and be prepared to give a brief summary in case they are not familiar with it.
- Don’t argue – you will be more effective by remaining calm and courteous
- Don’t be discouraged by a busy signal – that means they are getting many calls. Try again later.
- Follow up – send a note thanking them for their time.