Have you ever wondered what happens to your letters to Congress once they've been sent? Who reads them? When should you expect a response? You aren't the only one. In an effort to shed light on the path of your advocacy materials, we invited the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) and two Legislative Correspondents (LCs) to share their insights during our September 3 webinar.
Legislative Correspondents Aubrey Neal and Faith Williams interact with advocacy materials on a daily basis. Between their first hand experiences and recent survey findings presented by CMF CEO, Brad Fitch and Vice President, Susie Gorden, we uncovered a couple key takeaways about the best ways to make a meaningful connection with movers and shakers on the Hill.
Be patient. Things tend to move slowly in the halls of Congress. If the legislative office that you try contacting does not have a pre-existing, prepared response, then you should expect at least three weeks to hear back. The good news? An overwhelming number of congressional offices have begun shifting resources to constituent communications and mark it as a high priority.
Personalize your request. Congressional staffers tend to view grassroots advocacy campaigns with some skepticism, especially when they receive repetitive emails. Generic, fill-in-the blank form communications can work, but balance these out by including relevant profile information (employer, job title, community, etc.) or a personal anecdote about why this issue matters to you and your community.
Make a clear ask. Don't just outline a problem to your member, be sure to clearly articulate how they can help (e.g. vote on or co-sponsor a bill). When writing an email about a specific issue or bill, be sure to include the bill number.
Be courteous. A little positivity goes a long way. Be mindful of addressing legislators using their proper title and steer clear of threatening language or writing in ALL CAPS! Bonus tip: Thank your member. Offices don't tend to get many thank you letters, so a well-written, personal note has a good chance of making it to the member's desk.
Coordinate. Sometimes legislative offices receive hundreds of emails a day! So, if you want to make the biggest splash possible, use the "one voice" approach and simultaneously send out all of your campaign's communications. 200 emails in one day will make more of an impact than a greater number of emails sent over several weeks.
If you liked this month's webinar and want to learn more about communicating with our nation's leaders, visit the Digital Advocacy Institute to receive updates on upcoming webinars, new resources and more.