One of the great aspects of life in the United States is our ability to have a direct influence on the way we are governed. To maximize that influence, you need to be your own advocate with Congress. Members of Congress listen to their constituents and care about constituents' opinions.
To be effective, however, you must communicate properly with your Senators and Representatives.
- Start every communication with your name and address.
The offices of our elected officials are inundated with communication from concerned individuals and organizations. You must first establish that you are a constituent, (i.e., you reside or work in the area represented by the official). Otherwise, you risk having your message discarded before it is read.
- Use the Proper Salutation.
Be respectful in your communication. For U.S. Senators, address them as "Dear Senator (insert name here)." For the U.S. House of Representatives, address them as "Dear Representative (insert name here)."
- Be Courteous.
As we all would, Members of Congress will react negatively to communication that is threatening or rude.
- Make it Personal.
If you are sending a message that has been prepared for you, take a moment to put the message into your own words. Explain how the legislation would impact you or your job.
- Keep it Brief.
Identify the reason for your communication up front and limit your comments. Elected officials hear from hundreds of contacts a day, so a brief letter or phone call is more effective than a long one.
Ways to Communicate with Congress
This is the quickest way to get your message to your elected official. A staff member will take your message and relay it to your elected official. Be sure you have your message ready and be as specific as possible about the reason for your call. Include the bill number if you are calling about legislation being considered in Congress.
Prepare your letter as identified below, but import it into the body of an email. Do not send attachments with your email as those messages often get rejected before reaching the addressee.
Faxing your message ensures same day delivery into the official's office.
Mailing your message is perhaps the slowest way to reach your representatives, but it is still effective.