Making Democracy Work

How to Take Action

Lobbying and Letter Writing

Learn the Issues

How To Make Your Voice Heard: Tips

  • Always be polite--speak or write calmly and concisely.

  • Address the person by job title: Dear Senator ________, Dear Congressman ______, Dear Representative, Dear Mr. President.

  • Identify your issue in the beginning of your message and what action you want the government official to take. Put the topic in the first sentence,if possible, giving the title or the bill number of the proposed legislative action. Example:"Please vote against the bill that would open Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWAR) to drilling for oil."

  • Email, call, fax or write a letter with only one topic per message. Often the contact information is stacked up in pro and con stacks on a particular subject. You don't want your second issue to be lost. Contact separately about it.

  • Put your name and address clearly within any written communication (perhaps phone number, also) or leave contact information clearly if you are required to leave a voice mail message when calling.

  • Email, fax or call only (no postal mail) if you are writing to the President, Senators, or Members of the House of Representatives. Since the anthrax incident in 2001 all postal mail must go through a "cooking" process to kill anything dangerous so it will take a longer time to get your letter read-- and it will be as fragile as old fashioned parchment.

  • Tell why this issue matters to you personally. Be specific about how it affects you, your children, someone you know. Give details of the impact of the issue that make it matter to you. A personal message gets attention.

  • Do not use a form letter even if you think it says it so much better than you could. It will likely be ignored or at best put in a pile to be counted--maybe.

  • A form letter or a signing a petition from some group is better than nothing--but not much better. Do this only if you do not have time to write a real, if short, note of your own on the topic you care about.

  • Hand address the envelope being sent by postal mail to state and local officials. Aides rarely toss aside hand addressed letters--it might be from a personal friend.

  • Type or hand-write on paper other than white (or with a unique letter head of your own).

  • Slightly curl the corner of the letter before you put it in the envelope so it does not get "stuck" behind another in a stack.

  • When calling, you may be asked to give your comments to an aide. Be clear about the topic, why it matters to you and what action you want the official to take.

  • Letters in the mail get noticed at the state and local level. If there is no immediate crisis, a "snail mail" communication will probably be better than email as sometimes the email is not checked for a number of days (or even weeks) and is rarely printed off.

  • For most, email is regularly checked (if not often) so do communicate this way and often with thoughtful comments that show you are informed on the issue and not just ranting.

  • Email is often ignored during a busy session so a phone call will be better if time is of the essence. This holds true for US Senators and Representatives, and state officials also.

  • At the state level if they get six or eight communications on one side of an issue they are likely to consider it a landslide as they so rarely hear from ANYONE on issues facing them for a vote. Your communications DO matter.