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How to make Congress hear you

Often I hear activists ask,  “does it pay to send an email to our Senators?” and “which is better, visits or calls to Congress?”

The recent Friends Committee on National Legislation newsletter has a great article starting on page 5 about how communication with Congress works, what the role of different methods is, and how things fit together.

It’s a great piece based on real data and feedback from members of Congress and their staffs. It is neither starry-eyed nor is it hopeless.

Here are 2 key points:

It is very important for citizens to personalize the messages that they send to Members. Congressional staff members have revealed in our research that they place more weight on communications that convey how a piece of legislation will affect their constituents. While you might wholeheartedly agree with the suggested text that FCNL provides for you, take the time to tell the Member why the issue is so important to you, personally. It’s not uncommon to then see Senators and Representatives go down to the Senate or House floor and say, “I received a letter from one of my constituents who told me how this legislation would devastate her small business.” Those are the letters that persuade Members.

And,

Our research with Members and congressional staff shows that if a Member has not already arrived at a firm position on an issue, the most effective way to persuade her or him is through a face to face meeting.

It’s just a 2-page article, the whole thing is worth a quick read.

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