Write A Letter To Congress
A step-by-step guide on how to
write a letter to Congress
Have you written a letter to Congress but never heard back? Have you tried to advocate for an issue but to no avail? Do you wonder if your wasting of time trying to contact Congress? Read below to learn the best way to write a letter to your Congressman or Congresswoman and make your letter stand out from the crowd.
Almost all letters to Congress are read and responded to, but unfortunately, they rarely get read by your actual member of Congress.
Most of the time, however, your letter is put into an excel spreadsheet and your stance on the issue is recorded.
Your representative looks at these spreadsheets to try and determine what their constituents think and your opinion is taken into account when your member of Congress is making a decision on where he or she stands on the issue.
So what does this mean? Should you spend your time writing a letter to your legislator? Or is writing a personal letter a waste of time?
Should you write a letter to your representative?
Ask yourself these five questions before you decide to write a letter to your Congressman or Congresswoman:
1. Is your legislator undecided on the issue you're writing about?
If so, it is very unlikely that a legislator will change his or her mind on an issue. Constantly changing positions on issues is bad for politicians because they will be labeled a "flip-flopper" by their political opponents.
2. Is there a vote on the horizon that deals with your issue?
Is there an upcoming vote on the issue you want to write about? Has the leadership of either party indicated they want to prioritize your issue during the current legislative session? Is the issue you are writing about newsworthy? If your issue is not relevant or your timing is off, your letter will most likely be ignored.
3. Will your letter to your representative elevate the issue?
Maybe your issue is not newsworthy or on politician's radar, but that does not necessarily mean you should not write your letter. If you have a cause that you think needs to be elevated, and your letter could accomplish that, then it might be worth your time to write to your member of Congress. This is especially true if your issue is a win-win or could make your legislator look good by addressing the issue.
4. Do you have an ask for your legislator?
Writing a letter without including an ask is a waste of time. Make sure there is a relevant action your member of Congress, or the staff, can take to advance your issue. Ask the member to co-sign a current piece of legislation, ask if he or she can make a speech about your issue on the House floor, ask him or her to attend an upcoming hearing on the issue or to try to speak with a member of the committee that oversees your issue.
If you answered YES to three or more of these questions,
we think writing a letter is a good way to lobby Congress.
How to write your letter?
Here are some tips to help you write an effective letter to your member of Congress:
Use your own words, do not use a pre-written message.
Include a return address so the Congressman knows you are from their congressional district or state. They might also want to mail you a response.
Introduce yourself. Tell the person reading your letter where you live and a little bit about yourself.
Be clear and concise about why you are writing and what position you want your lawmaker to take.
After you have explained your issue, include a personal story explaining why you care about the issue.
Include some statistics. Adding data to your personal story to strengthen your argument. Make sure the stats you use are correct and up-to-date.
Lastly, show how the issue impacts other people in your area or district.
Be courteous and respectful.
Make sure your letter is well-written and free of grammatical mistakes.
What to ask your member of Congress in your letter?
The "ask" is one of the most important components of your letter to your Congressman.
Here are some examples of asks that you can include in your letter:
Include a request in their appropriations letter,
Make a speech about your issue on the House floor,
Hold a Senate hearing on your issue,
Vote yes or no on a specific Bill,
Vote yes or no in a committee markup,
Add an amendment during a markup,
Publicly support an issue,
Make comments about your issue at a local event,
How should you send your letter to your legislator?
When Congress started receiving letters that had anthrax and other harmful substances inside, they put in place a security process that screens all letters before they are delivered to congressional offices.
Sometimes, this process can hold up a letter up for several months. So if your issue is time-sensitive, mailing a physical letter may not be the best option.
Emails are delivered immediately but we have found that they do not have the same impact as a handwritten note. Taking the time to sit down and write out a letter about your issue shows the staffer that you care about it, which makes a big difference.
That is why we recommend faxing your letter to Congress!
We know that most people in 2019 don't use fax machines, but all offices in Congress have them and staffers check them daily.
Faxing your letter will ensure your message is delivered to your member’s office instantly, and at the same time, it shows the staffers you cared enough to sit down and write a letter.
If the issue is time-sensitive, you can write about it and fax it over on the same day.
The instant delivery and the personal touch make faxing a letter a great way to contact Congress.