February 13, 2017
If you’d like to make your voice heard in politics, protests and call-in campaigns are only part of the story. A new report from the nonpartisan, nonprofit Congressional Management Foundation helps us understand the best ways to get a message through.
The report focuses on small decisions—ones where the senator or representative isn’t facing a lot of high profile pressure, and where they might be undecided or easily swayed. Decisions like those make up most of a congressperson’s work, the report says. While they might not be front page news, they can matter a lot to you as a citizen. And those issues are where citizens’ communications carry the most weight.
In-person meetings are very influential, but from-the-heart emails and letters aren’t far behind, as the chart above shows. Editorials and letters to the editor in your local paper are also strategies worth considering, and they speak louder than a phone call.
What should those letters say? When a member of Congress is undecided, the report says, they and their staffers want to learn about how the issue affects constituents. Staffers say it helps to provide maps and charts that clearly show how the bill or issue will impact people locally. They also value back-and-forth relationships with knowledgeable citizens and with representatives of special interest groups.
“Citizen advocates are more influential and contribute to better public policy when they provide personalized and local information to Congress,” the report states. Read the whole thing below to learn what information to provide and how to cultivate a relationship that helps the staffers trust you.
Citizen-Centric Advocacy: The Untapped Power of Constituent Engagement | Congressional Management Foundation