Do Emails to Congress Work?
Do my messages reach Congress? Do they matter?
The answer to both questions is yes. Messages you send through FCNL reach Congress. When they arrive, they have influence. Studies conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation show that 94% of congressional staff members polled say that emails have a lot or some influence.
“We hope to spend about as much time answering your communication as you spend sending it to us."
~ A congressional staffer
Do I Influence My Members of Congress By Sending Email to Them?
In February 2010, FCNL put this question to Tim Hysom, Director for Communications and Technology Services at the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting a more effective Congress. He answered:
Sending your views to Members of Congress does work, no matter what format they arrive in. Senators and Representatives want to know how their votes affect their constituents. One thing people always ask me is, "How many messages does a Member of Congress need to receive in order to change their mind?" There are as many answers to that question as there are Members of Congress: 541. Sometimes a Member can be swayed by a single heartfelt and articulate message from a constituent. Sometimes it's the sheer volume of communications that they receive that persuades them. One important note, however, is that congressional offices do like postal communications because it is easy to see that the constituent took the time to write a handwritten letter, but email is far easier for them to process and will ensure that your message arrives more quickly. The bottom line is that, yes, emails still work, but they are generally most effective if they are personal messages rather than form messages. Read more of this interview.
How do my emails reach Congress?
Congressional offices are still perfecting systems for dealing with the high volume of email they receive every day. Most use web forms, but even these are changing frequently. FCNL makes sure your messages are successfully delivered. Our email provider tracks changes in how offices receive mail and updates their technology in response. Most emails are delivered within two attempts.
Postal mail remains an effective ways of communicating with congress. Congressional staffers report that 44% of postal letters have a lot of influence in their offices.
When is email preferable?
Postal mail takes far longer to reach members of Congress. Most pieces of mail take more than a week to reach congressional offices because of security measures. So, while postal mail is more influential in offices, email is preferable when you want to influence a vote or decision quickly. Email is easier for offices to process and arrives more quickly than postal mail.
How Can I Make My Emails More Influential?
- Personalize your message - Explain who you are and why the issue is important to you. Including personal stories about yourself and the district makes you stand out to congressional staff.
- Be polite - Thank your legislator for previous votes, and courteously ask for her or his support on your issue.
- Be concise and make a specific request - Ask your legislator to cosponsor or vote yes or no on a specific bill.
Tell Me More!
- Questions and Answers on Communicating with Congress, an interview with Tim Hysom at the Congressional Management Foundation
- Communicating with Congress through Emails, Letters, Faxes, and Phone Calls - one-page flyer
- Questions and Answers on Communicating with Congress -- from our October 2007 Washington Newsletter
- Writing to Congress: How to Make a Difference -- from our January 2006 Washington Newsletter
- Check our our Grassroots Toolkit for more ideas on communicating with Congress.