Our “Advocacy How-To” series provides tips, tools, and strategies to conduct your own advocacy and get involved in Alliance advocacy campaigns. Today’s post is from Federal Policy Intern, Swaroop Vitta.
Last week, we saw how easy it is to find your Members of Congress, the committees they sit on, and the appropriate staff members to contact. This week and next, we’ll talk about how to go about contacting your Members’ offices. There are a few ways to do this, but we recommend either calling or emailing their offices – “snail mail” can take weeks to get through Capitol Hill security.
Today, we will talk about emailing the office.
Because it makes the most sense to contact the staff person who handles your issue (like housing) directly, the most effective way to reach them is usually to get their direct email address, rather than the general email address listed on the Member’s website.
Many congressional offices will not give out email addresses for their staff members, but the Alliance can help you figure out the email address if you know the staff person’s name. To get this information, either:
- Call the congressional office directly, or
- Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected with your Member’s office.
Once you reach the office, ask who handles your issue area. For example, if you will be emailing your Member about housing issues, ask for the staff member in charge of housing.
Now it’s time to write the email. This is nothing to be intimidated by, but here are a few key tips.
Get to the point. These staff members receive many emails everyday, so it is important that you make it clear early on in the email what exactly you are asking of them.
Now that you have their attention, add lots of relevant information. You can include local data, like the number of people in permanent housing in your area, and even short anecdotes, like stories about a successful re-housing intervention. Feel free to attach local news reports and other media, or simply link to reports or other publications and give a brief summary of the highlights.
Be relevant. Make sure that everything you write is relevant to the specific issue you are raising. Each point should back up your main request.
Proofread. Remember to proofread for grammar and for content. It is very easy to make mistakes while typing, but these mistakes may be distracting and indicate a lack of credibility. Once you think you are done, read over the email one more time to make sure it’s perfect.
Now just click send!
Want more? There are lots of great resources in our Advocacy Toolkit, including example emails and other useful information.