Tips for Contacting Elected Officials

There are all sorts of reasons why a person would find themselves needing to communicate their position to an elected official, or person in power. It's vital that we take our voice and use it in the interest of the things we care about, and that we're directing our energy toward those who can make the changes we want to see, or hold their ground in the face of a potential sway. People don't know how you feel unless you tell them, and personal stories about how constituents are affected is vital to elected officials understanding their community. It's our duty to share our stories, our needs, and our values, especially when there is a lot at stake. But I'm Just One Person Yes, and you matter. Your story and your experience matters. And it is critical to get those stories heard. The system is designed to take your opinions and needs into account. And once we get comfortable sharing our beliefs and needs in this way, we can encourage others to do the same, which improves the system for everyone. It's like singing karaoke. You only have to do it once, and then you realize how easy and awesome it is, and you can't wait to do it again. (Just me? The point is it isn't as hard after the first time.) But I Share On Social Media. If you're finding yourself so passionate about an issue that you're posting about it on social media, but not following it up with letters, emails, and phone calls to those who are "in charge" we run the risk of feeling like we're speaking out, but those words aren't getting in front of the right audience. Here are some tips for effectively communicating with officials to get your voice heard Writing a Letter [Date] The Honorable [Name] [Office Address] RE: [State the topic or bill/resolution numbertate the topic or bill/resolution number] Dear [Assembly Member/Senator/Councilperson etc.] [Last name]: My name is [your first and last name] and I am a [family member /service provider/advocate/community member] who resides in your district. State why you support or oppose the bill or other issue. Choose up to three of the strongest points that support your position and state them briefly and clearly. Include a personal story. Tell your representative why the issue is important to you and how it affects you, your family member and your community. Tell your representative how you want them to vote on this issue and ask for a response. Be sure to include your name and address on both your letter and envelope. Sincerely, [Sign your name] [Print your name] [Include your full address] Sending an Email Follow the template for the written letter, with a few formatting changes: While it's not always possible, try to avoid bulk emails or blind copies and email each representative individually. [State the topic or bill/resolution number in the subject line] Dear [Assembly Member/Senator/Councilperson etc.] [Last name]: My name is [your first and last name] and I am a [family member /service provider/advocate/community member] who resides in your district. State why you support or oppose the bill or other issue. Choose up to three of the strongest points that support your position and state them briefly and clearly. Include a personal story. Tell your representative why the issue is important to you and how it affects you, your family member and your community. Tell your representative how you want them to vote on this issue and ask for a response. Be sure to include your email address under your residential address in your signature. Sincerely, [Your name] [Include your full address] [Include your email address] Making a Phone Call You will often be speaking with a secretary or aide, and not the representative directly. Speaking authentically is welcomed, but like with any communication, so is civility. State your name, zip code, and/or District, and identify yourself as the legislator/representative’s constituent. You will often be speaking with a secretary or aide. Briefly make known your position as they keep track of the issues that people call about. Have your thoughts organized in advance, which will help you to keep the call brief and to the point. Share how the issue affects you personally. Thank them for their support. Some Additional Tips Speak up often. We have to continue to hold our elected officials accountable, and your position doesn't stop being important. Collaborate. Are you a part of an organization or coalition? Do you have a group of people who feel the same way? Consider adding your names to a collective statement for greater impact. Pick the right targets. Make sure that you're writing to the people who are actually in control of the decisions, and those who might influence them. You can include people close to the decision makers, to ensure that your topic is front of mind for those in the representative's circles. Let us know how you're getting your voice heard!

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