Writing to Elected Officials

Letters

Letters are another way to communicate directly with elected officials. A letter is received even when calls don’t get through and provides a documented record of your communication. Letters make strong impressions, especially when written individually and not generated for broad groups. Below are a few tips and resources to use when composing your letter.

Tips for Writing Letters

  • If your handwriting is legible, hand-write the letter. If not, type the letter and sign your name by hand.
  • Use a personal or business letter head if you have one.
  • Address your letter correctly. Look up your legislator’s name, title, and mailing address.
  • Keep your letter formal, but include a personal anecdote for a better impact.
  • Describe how the issue will affect you, personally, and your legislator’s community. If you’re referring to a specific bill, include the number of the bill.
  • Recognize and thank the elected official for his/her positive actions. If you disagree with them, give your reason for disagreeing and suggest an alternative.
  • Request an action from the elected official. (Ask for a reply, for his/her stance on the issue, for his/her support on the bill, for the official to share the issue with other policymakers.)
  • End the letter by thanking the elected official for his/her time.

E-mailing

When a quicker form of communication is needed, try sending an e-mail.  KY’s Voice makes it simple to e-mail because we carefully draft messages to policymakers for your use; but you can also personalize these messages. Sign up with KY’s Voice so you can receive our Action Alerts and start sending!

Follow Up

After your message, continue building a relationship with the elected official by following up. Try communicating in another form next time. Thank the official and staff for their consideration, keep them up-to-date on the issue, remind them of your case, and acknowledge any action they’ve taken.

 

Calling Elected Officials

A phone call to your legislator is a great way to have a one-on-one conversation to share your case. Usually, a legislator’s office staff handles calls to legislators, which is why it’s so important to establish a good connection with them too.  Below are a few tips to help prepare you before, during, and after a call to a policymaker.

Before You Call

  • It’s best to choose one or two of your best points, so you can stay on topic and keep things short.
  • If possible, include factual information, refer to a specific bill, and try to use a personal story relating to the issue in the conversation as well.
  • It may be helpful to have a document to refer to during the call too.
  • PRACTICE! Rehearse what you’re going to say, perhaps with another person, until you are comfortable and confident that your message is effective.

During the Call

  • It’s best to call when your legislator is in your community, rather than in Frankfort or Washington.
  • Be friendly and patient when communicating with office staff.
  • Introduce yourself and identify yourself as a constituent because policymakers want to listen to people responsible for keeping them in office. If you voted for them, mention that too.
  • Keep the conversation brief (about 5 minutes).
  • Ask about the elected official’s position and use your messages to support or persuade her/him on the issue.
  • Near the end of the conversation, include a call to action that specifies your expectations.
  • Leave your contact information and thank the elected official and office staff for their time.

After the Call

  • Encourage other supporters to call too.
  • Share the conversation with partners, supporters, and on social media.
  • Call again or communicate using an alternative method like a written letter, email, or visit.
You also have the option to leave messages:
To leave messages for KY legislators, you may call: 1-800-372-7181
To leave messages for US Senator Mitch McConnell, call: (202) 224-2541
To leave messages for US Representative Paul Rand, call: (202) 224-4343
 
To look up numbers for other elected officials, go to VoteSmart.org and enter your address information to see a list of elected officials in your area and their contact information too.

Meeting with Elected Officials

An in-person meeting with an elected official is one of the most effective ways to establish a relationship. Elected officials are interested in hearing the needs of their constituents, so they will find time to meet with you when possible. There are various types of meetings, depending on the legislative process schedule, so be sure to schedule in accordance with this process.  If you are meeting with an elected official for the first time, it is important to make a positive impression and show the official why you are a credible advocate for the issue.  Here are a few tips you can use.

Before the Meeting

  • Be sure to find the appropriate member to meet with regarding your issue.
  • Have a few dates available in mind for your meeting and decide where the meeting will take place. Also decide if other supporters will attend the meeting with you.
  • If the scheduler or legislator is not available when you call, leave a message and follow up at a later time. If you are able to make an appointment, share your name/organization, purpose, and the total number of others who will attend the meeting with you.
  • Be sure to ask how much time you will have with the legislator.
  • Before the meeting, stay up-to-date on any voting or proposals related to your issue. Take some time to learn more about your legislator, including past support (if any) and other information you can use as common ground during the conversation.
  • Organize key messages for the meeting, including facts and personal stories. Be clear about what actions you want your legislator to commit to.
  • Create a document summarizing your case to leave with your legislator.

During the Meeting

  • Dress professionally and arrive on time.
  • Be respectful of office staff and patient when waiting for your legislator. Remember, schedules constantly change so be flexible if the meeting must be rescheduled.
  • Greet the official and introduce yourself. A brief moment of small talk is appropriate here. Mention something you have in common.
  • Thank the legislator for meeting with you, and then share the purpose and key messages of your meeting.
  • Your tone should be a balance between friendly and firm.
  • Be prepared for questions and opposition.
  • End the discussion with your call to action and thank the official/staff for their time.
  • Leave the summarized document and any contact information.

After the Meeting

  • Follow up with a thank you letter that summarizes the discussion during the meeting.
  • Evaluate the meeting and decide your next steps in establishing the connection and support with your official.
  • Share the discussion with other advocates.
 
Click here for Different Types of Meetings

 

Sources: Raising Your Voice: Communications Planning for Youth-Serving Organizations by the America’s Promise Alliance and Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance’s Early Years Advocacy Toolkit.