Contacting your elected representatives is a powerful way to influence public policy. In this section, we will go over tactics and advice on how to effectively reach your legislators and decision-makers.
You can address your concerns to your representative, senator, the president, the secretary-general of the United Nations or any other elected or appointed official relevant to your issue.
General Tips: Make it Relevant, Personal and Local
Identify yourself and your organization (if applicable). Are you a voter in the state or district? An expert on the issue?
Be timely. Leave your representative time to think and act before key votes and deadlines.
Do your research. Support your arguments with credible data and research.
Be specific. If you are mentioning a specific piece of legislation, cite the bill name and number. Remember to stay on topic and focus on your issue.
- To look up a bill and relevant information, go to: http://thomas.loc.gov
Be courteous, yet assertive. Your representative’s job is to listen to constituents. Demonstrate passion, not anger.
To find your members of Congress, go to:
- To take a current AJWS action, visit the AJWS Action Center. Pass along AJWS petitions and actions to your networks via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Insert your own voice. Edit the subject line of the e-mail and add your personal perspective.
- Organize a Letter Writing Campaign
- A letter writing campaign is most effective when targeted to the person who has the most influence over your issue. A well written and timely letter is a powerful tool and one that leaders take note of.
- Write letters at group meetings, at work or at related events in the community.
- For tips on how to develop a letter writing campaign, click here.
For a letter template, click here.
- Coordinate a Local Leaders Sign-On Letter
- A sign-on letter, much like letters written in a letter writing campaign, is a targeted letter to decision-makers. Instead of being from general constituents, sign-on letters are typically signed by organizations or “grasstops.” “Grasstops” are leaders and public figures in a community or institution. Getting local organizations and community grasstops, such as rabbis, deans of schools and local community organization presidents, to sign on to a letter conveys that there is broad support for the issue. Draft a letter and talk to leaders and organizations about signing on.
- For letter examples, go to the “recent news” section of the AJWS campaign pages.
- Organize a Petition
- Petitions are a way to demonstrate broad support. Petitions differ from sign-on letters (see “Coordinate a Local Sign-On Letter”), because they generally have a simple request with little background information, and they aim to collect a large number of signatures from individual constituents instead of community and organizational leaders.
- The goal number of signatures depends on the decision-maker you are trying to influence: to influence the president you will need a lot more signatures than to influence a city council member.
- For tips on writing a petition and collecting signatures, click here. For a petition template, click here.
- Organize a Call-In Day
- Making a phone call to your elected representative is a quick and easy action that can yield real results. Most offices keep a daily tally of how many calls they receive on each issue. A flood of calls can influence a legislator to make the right decision for your cause.
- For tips on making calls to your elected officials and more information on how to organize a call-in day, click here.
For a script template, click here.
- You can also call as an individual. Remember, representatives always appreciate hearing from constituents!
- The strongest advocacy tool is a simple conversation. Setting up a meeting with your congressional representative’s local or DC office is the most direct way to reach them…and it’s easy.
- Scheduling a Meeting
- Call and schedule a meeting, well in advance of your desired meeting date (2-4 weeks.)
- For tips on how to schedule a meeting, click here. For a meeting request template, click here.
- Holding a Meeting
- Before your meeting, prepare background information, your “ask” -what you want your target to do- and talking points. Meetings generally follow a basic structure: Introductions, issue presentation, “ask” and discussion. Remember that this is an opportunity for you to educate your elected official on your issue and to build relationships, so ask questions and be respectful.
- For a timeline and tips for a successful meeting with your member of Congress, click here.
- If your representative follows through on your request, send them a thank you note. You can even thank them publically through a letter to the editor (see “Engaging the Media”).