Effective Ways of Communicating with Your LegislatorThey can't support you if they don't know you're there
The first step to having a visit with your legislator is setting the appointment. Send a written request to the attention of the scheduler stating that you are a constituent. Propose a time, date and topic for your meeting. Be sure to follow up with a phone call. Remember that the Members' schedules are subject to change; therefore, do not be disappointed if your meeting is with a staff member. Do not underestimate the power and influence of a staff member; therefore, conduct a meeting with staff just as you would with the Member. Be brief! Your should spend no more than 15 minutes to make your point. Encourage questions and elicit discussion regarding the Member's position. Prepare a one page fact reference sheet to use during the meeting and leave this for the legislator and staff. Send a thank you note expressing appreciation for their time and reiterating your position on the issue.
An effective letter is no longer than one page and should include your name, your issue of concern, and specific action requested of the Member. If you know the Member's positions on similar legislation, mention those as this indicates your awareness of voting records. If you are expressing opposition to legislation, offer an alternative approach.
Do not use form letters or copies. Each elected official should receive an individual, personalized letter. Do not use your vote as a threat or bribe. Do not overstate your case or personal experience; the most effective letter is clear and concise.
Telephone calls are most effective when made to the Member's district office. Ask to speak with the staff member who works with healthcare legislation. When speaking with the staff member, state your name, that you are a constituent, and the reason for your call. Limit your call to 3-4 minutes, and use written notes to stay on topic. Leave your name and contact information with the staff member.
The key to an effective email is length. Legislative offices are flooded with emails, so yours needs to clearly state your name, your constituency status and your concern. Relate your position to your experience and the member's committee assignments or constituent interests. Ask for a response that states the member's position on the issue, and include your mailing address as most members prefer to respond via postal mail.
Whatever the form of communication, follow-up is necessary. A Thank You note will show that you appreciate the demands made of the Member and provides an opportunity to reiterate your position. If the member does what you ask, send a thank you letter specific to the action. If he does not, send a letter of disappointment.