Government representatives are increasingly responsive and reliant on input and suggestions from their constituents. The most direct way of making an impact is through a letter-writing or email-writing campaign. The more letters or emails that a legislator receives, the more important the issue becomes.
Even with noncontroversial issues, it is important to write letters or emails because, if there is no evident public consensus, legislators are likely to rely on the letters that they did receive as the consensus. Letters and emails also visually show which constituents legislation may affect and how many of the legislator’s constituents oppose or support the proposed legislation. However, a poorly or incorrectly written letter or email will make little impact.
It is important to identify yourself as a member or an elected officer of your association so that the legislator distinguishes you and your association as a key player in this legislative issue. You may also want to identify yourself as a small businessperson if you qualify. Research the legislator's background to find out their stance on small businesses and associations. This research can help you determine the best way to approach and address the legislator that would have the most impact. Additionally, make sure that you only submit one letter or email to the legislator that lists your various titles. The office tabulates letters and emails by name and not by title, so your letters or emails would be flagged as multiple letters from the same person. To locate the biographies, physical addresses, and email addresses of legislators in Congress, visit www.house.gov or www.senate.gov depending on whether the legislator is a representative or a senator.
Here are some important tips to keep in mind when drafting your letter:
- Use letterhead.
- Address the letter or email to a specific legislator. Make sure to verify the correct spelling of the legislator's name and use their correct title.
- Include your name and personal contact information, including your title, physical address, and email address.
- The subject line should state your brief position on the legislative issue or proposed bill. For example, “Oppose Bill XYZ,” or “Support Bill XYZ.”
- Keep it brief and concise. Aim for no longer than one page.
- Identify that you are the legislator’s constituent if applicable.
- Identify the issue.
- If the issue is a particular bill, verify the full name and bill number and provide a short description of the bill.
- Communicate your issue and share the impact that it has on you personally.
- Share your profession and the community where you work and live.
- Support your argument concisely and make your strongest arguments in the beginning of the letter or email.
- Sign the letter personally.
- Mail the letter or send the email within a reasonable time frame so there is time for the legislator to read and to follow up with you.
- Make sure to respond and to follow up with any requests for information made by the legislator or their staff.
The first paragraph should include a greeting and a request for specific action to be taken by the legislator.
In the next paragraphs, describe the bill, explain the legislation, and support your position. Always be positive in your rationale. To facilitate a response, ask how the legislator plans to vote on the issue and request a direct response. Additionally, thank the legislator for their consideration and sign your name. Lastly, remember to respond to the legislator with any requests for information.