Is your Congressman or Senator on a committee that will make major decisions about your way of life? Is there a floor vote on a bill that could effect your livelihood? Or ever heard your Congressman or Senator on the news and felt he or she was misinformed?
When this frustrating situation occurs, there is something you can do: write a letter. Policymakers from the White House to the Cabinet to Congress do pay attention to the letters they receive.
Some letters, of course, are more effective than others. The following are some tips for writing effective letters.
- Communicate. Make a specific request of the policy-maker when you write. You may want a decision changed, a vote cast a certain way, or to communicate specific facts, but be clear about what you want.
- Personalize. Although mass-produced postcards and letters can be effective -- they tell policymakers that a large number of people hold a certain viewpoint -- individually written letters or cards are more effective. The policymaker knows the individual cares a great deal about an issue if they have taken the time to write a personal letter.
- Be brief. Your letters are most likely to be read if they are to the point. Include one or two points, only.
- Be courteous. Rude comments in your letter make it less effective. You can be firm while still being courteous.
- Follow-up. If you receive a vague response from a policy-maker, write again and request more specific information. And, if they do something you approve of, send a thank you letter. Thank you letters are rare, and therefore, appreciated.
- Be timely. If you wish to influence a policymakers opinion on a specific issue, write early and often. Your letters will be most effective if you communicate your views before they have developed an opinion.
- Utilize letters-to-the editor. If you get a letter-to-the-editor printed about your issue, send a copy from the newspaper to policy-makers. This will show them that you are more than casually interested, and are working actively to educate your fellow citizens about it.
- Go public. Send a copy of the letter to your congressman as a "letter-to-the-editor." If it is published, it will add visibility to your issue and make it more difficult for policymakers to take your issue lightly.
- Sign your letters. Include your name, address and telephone number, so the policymaker can respond to your concerns.
- Type or print. Make sure the policymaker can read how important your issue is to you.
- Address your letters:
- The Honorable _________
- US House of Representatives
- Washington DC 20515
- The Honorable _________
- US Senate
- Washington DC 20510
- The White House
- 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
- Washington DC 20500
Telephone calls to policymakers can be as effective as letters, sometimes more so, if time is an issue. And the phone is faster than letters. All Congressmen have offices in their home states and districts. When concerned about an issue, pick up the phone and the closest office. Staff members there do relay messages to DC, and many offices report that ten phone calls on an issue have greater impact than ten letters.
Send mail to email@example.com with questions or comments about this web site.
All pages on this website are ©1999-2001, American Land Rights Association. Permission is granted to use any and all information herein, as long as credit is given to ALRA.