Emails are easy. You can write one from just about anywhere using your phone or computer. They can be as long or as short as you would like, you can take your time to draft one, and you can send it anytime of the day (or night).
On the other hand, our inboxes can be filled with hundreds of emails a day – many minimally useful. Sometimes subject lines are misleading. This leads to the question, when it comes to Congress, are emails useful?
According to Congressional staff, Yes!…if they are done right. In a report compiled of surveys conducted with Congressional staffers from 2004-2016, 92 percent of congressional staff said “individualized email messages had a lot or some influence on the lawmaker” if the letter is personalized. Otherwise, the effectiveness rate drops to 56 percent.
So, how do you write a letter to Congress that will sway a decision?
Please support foreign assistance
My name is Christina and I am from Seattle, Washington. I have lived in Washington my entire life and am actively involved in my church and many organizations. I am writing to ask Senator Cantwell to support foreign assistance and to speak out against any cuts as the Federal budget is negotiated this year.
Traveling overseas I have seen the direct impact these programs can have. I remember in particular a woman named Susan. Her husband passed away and she has four children. With a small amount of training she learned to make cookstoves. She then sold those cookstoves and was able to support her four children and build a better life. She then used her knowledge to train other women, helping the entire community.
Thank you for your work in Congress. I look forward to hearing your response.
- Use a straightforward, specific subject line. This garners attention and can help the staffer forward the email to the appropriate person if needed.
- Be sure to identify yourself as a constituent. This can be as simple as sharing your state or zip code. Constituents’ voices hold the most weight, so this helps an office know to prioritize your email.
- Share the role you play in your community, and by connection, any influence you may have. Are you active in your church? Do you own a business? Meet with a mother’s group regularly? Influence can happen on many levels. You are representative of people in the district and sometimes just the opinion of a parent/educator/person of faith/college student/(fill in the blank) is enough to get attention.
- Share why you are writing – be direct and specific. Sometimes it will be a particular bill, but it could also be a general concern or to say thank you.
- Share why this matters to you. Maybe you have traveled and have a story to share. You may have also read a book that moved you, seen a documentary that changed your opinion, know someone in the community personally affected by these issues, or just have a strong conviction.Why you care can become why they care.
- Be polite and kind. Remember, members of Congress are real people, as are the staffers who work in their office. Their jobs are busy and stressful. Never be afraid to express your opinion or ask for what you want, but always do so with respect.
Ready to get started? On our Use Your Voice page you can fill in your information to find your elected officials. Select who you would like to send your email to, write your email, and press send! We will send the email on your behalf, and the office will reply directly to you. Try it now!
Need help getting started? We have started messages for you that you can edit on the following topics:
Saving moms and children
Ending violence against children
Providing aid for refugees
Education for all children
As our Talking to Congress series continues we will look at more ways to reach out, including phone calls, social media, and leveraging your local newspaper. If you have any specific questions or things you would like us to cover, leave a comment below!
Photo: In Lebanon, 5-year-old Rimas, whose family was forced to flee Syria, learns to use a computer. © 2016 World Vision