The Nuts and Bolts of contacting legislators

 

Influence Factors of Undecided Legislators

During 2004 and 2005, congressional staffers responded to a Congressional Management Foundation survey which asked the following:

“If your Member/Senator has not already arrived at a firm decision on an issue, how much influence might the following advocacy strategies directed to the Washington office have on his/her decision?”

Constituent Visits             99%
Rep. for Constituents        96%
Individualized Letters        96%
Individualized Emails        94%
Lobbyist Visits                  93%
Individualized Faxes         91%
Phone Calls                      88%
Form Letters                    65%
Form Emails                     63%
Form Faxes                      57%

Percentages based on 350 responses

(Fitch, Bradford. Citizen's Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials. TheCapitol.Net, 2010. p34)

 

When writing individualized letters, remember to:

  • Use the proper form of address: the Honorable (full name) or            Dear Representative/Senator (last name)
  • Keep it brief -one page is ideal
  • Identify yourself as someone who lives in the legislator's district (a constituent).
  • Get to the point and use supporting facts and statistics
  • Use a story to illustrate your point and make a personal connection whenever possible (see Your Library Message)
  • Close your letter with an offer to be a source of information

Read a sample letter

 

 

When planning to invite your legislator to a library event:

  • Send the invitation four to six weeks in advance when possible
  • Plan to have coverage from local media outlets or be prepared to take pictures and submit a story yourself. Include it on your website and social media platforms.
  • Develop an agenda for the event and walk through it with relevant staff, trustees and library friends
  • Craft talking points to highlight your library's services and programs, usage, and transformative power
  • Don't let them leave empty-handed; create a brochure, print a 3D take-away, present them with a library card!
  • Follow up with a letter of thanks and additional materials if necessary or desirable

 

 

 

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