Contacting Your Legislators: Advocacy Tips & Tactics
Important points to keep in mind when communicating with your elected officials:
- Lawmakers are most concerned and interested in the thoughts and opinions of their constituents, so be sure to identify yourself as such ("My name is Clare Jones, and I live in Chicago…").
- Remember to contact state legislators about state legislation and federal legislators about federal legislation.
- Make sure you understand the legislative process. Even the most basic understanding will help you effectively express your concerns and ideas.
- Organize your thoughts ahead of time and make notes to help you stay on track.
- Limit your call, letter, fax or e-mail to one specific topic, and be brief. Let the receptionist know exactly why you're calling (giving a bill number if possible), explain why the issue is important to you and ask where your lawmaker stands.
- Bolster your opinions with facts and figures. Logical, factually supported arguments are usually far more effective than strictly emotional ones.
- Regardless of where your legislators stand on the issue at hand, never be rude or hostile. If they don’t happen to agree with you, politely let them know that you're disappointed, and urge them to re-evaluate their position.
- If the office does not know where a lawmaker officially stands on the issue, offer to send them specific information, then ask for a written response after they’ve had a chance to review it more closely.
- Don’t be afraid to suggest a course of action and offer assistance. Some of the most innovative (and effective) legislative ideas come directly from the grassroots!
- Be generous with praise and/or credit when it’s due. If the lawmaker did something positive, leave a ‘thank you’ message for a job well done. In today’s political climate, elected officials who stand up for animal welfare (and against powerful special interests) need to know their efforts are valued and appreciated.