The Lowdown on Email
Your email does reach congressional offices and can influence members. Not all emails are equal, however. What can you to do make your email stand out?
Make It Personal
For most offices, the content of your communication is more important than the form that the communication arrives in. In a recent survey conducted by the independent organization, The Partnership for a More Perfect Union, a majority of congressional staff reported that personal contact with a constituent is the best way to influence a member who is undecided on an issue. Email messages can qualify as personal contact if you take a moment to include some details about yourself and why you care about the issue enough to write to your congressperson about it.
What makes a personal message that might be influential? In the same survey, 77% of staff said that knowing the impact of a bill on the district would be helpful or very helpful, 74% said that knowing constituent reasoning would be helpful or very helpful, and 48% said a personal story was helpful or very helpful.
Make It Specific
Your communication will be more effective if you include a specific action that the member of Congress can take. Do you want him or her to vote a particular way? Support a piece of legislation? Sign on to a letter? Advocacy organizations like FCNL can help you identify concrete steps on your issue of concern.
Make It Trustworthy
Your members of Congress may receive hundreds or even thousands of email messages a day. Email is easy to send, and many organizations like FCNL offer sample letters that make it even easier. This ease has caused some distrust in congressional offices. In the survey, 53 percent of staff agreed that most advocacy campaigns with identical form messages are sent without constituent knowledge or approval.
This means that you should look at your email messages from the point of view of the person receiving it. Will they see it as just one more form letter, or will they be able to tell that you have just sent them a personal communication about your specific concern? FCNL’s form letters can suggest ideas, but you should also put in details about who you are and why you care about the issue to give your letter the weight it deserves.
Will My Email Make a Difference?
If you follow these suggestions, you increase the chances that your emails will influence your members of Congress. Each congressional office is different, though, so it is also a good idea to call your members’ offices and ask how they prefer to hear from you and from others in the district you will be talking to. The more personal contact you have with an office, and the more you build a relationship with the members and staff, the greater the chances that your communication with the office will be effective.
Do you have a question about contacting Congress? Does your congressional office seem like the exception to these guidelines? We can help! Contact Alicia McBride, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-547-6000 x2536.
How to Send Your Email
Instead of a public email address, most members of Congress have forms on their websites for you to use to contact them electronically. FCNL’s online tools work with the congressional web forms and will also deliver your messages to the offices.
The form allows the office to request your name and address to identify you as a constituent. Congressional offices do not pay attention to communications from people who do not live in their state or district.
You may receive a response that addresses the specific issue you raise, a form letter, or even nothing at all. Your members do pay attention to your opinions, regardless of the kind of response you receive. If you have any questions or concerns about how your emails are being received, we encourage you to call the office.