Write/Email Your Policymaker

Purpose

Letters are an extremely important tool in advocacy. Policymakers expect to receive mail and email from constituents. They rely on input from the public to fulfill their role and help them decide how they will vote. Letters are one of the best ways to communicate your message. First, writing it down gives you time to think through what you want to say and ensure your message is clear. Second, a letter is permanent so policymakers can refer back to it as needed.

Writing letters and/or emails is a common component of action alerts. Advocacy Leaders are always available to assist you if needed. Click here for LaCAN Leader contact info.

Preparation

  • Identify your policymaker. Click here for your State Legislators. Click here for Legislator contact information.  Click here for your BESE Member. Click here for a list of other key policymakers.
  • Verify contact information. Visit the policymaker’s website or call their office beforehand to get his/her correct mailing or email address, title and spelling.

Steps for Writing a Letter

  • Begin writing your letter. A sample has been provided below for your reference.
  • Start with your personal contact information. Include your name, address, phone number and email on the top of your letter. Don't rely on your return address as envelopes often get separated from letters.
  • Date your letter.
  • Write the policymaker’s contact information. Use a legislator’s district office address when the legislature is not in session
  • Open your letter with a proper greeting. Be sure to include the policymaker’s title before their name, such as, “Governor Edwards” or “Representative Henry” or “Senator LaFleur”
  • Introduce yourself. Explain who you are. If you are a constituent, say so. If you voted for the policymaker, be sure to mention this as well. Include information about yourself, your child and family that will help the policymaker understand your needs.
  • Describe your issue or concern. Explain how this issue/policy has or will affect you, your family, your local community, etc.
  • Tell the policymaker what he/she can do to help. Be clear and specific. LaCAN action alerts will often spell this out for you, many times providing a sentence to be included in this section of your letter. Also use this time to recognize and thank your policymaker for any previous support.
  • Ask for a response. Let the policymaker know that you would be interested in hearing about his/her view concerning the issue. 
  • Close with thank you. Be sure to thank him/her for their consideration of your concerns.
  • Add a personal touch. Handwritten letters are well received by policymakers.  If you can and time permits, write (instead of typing) your letter. Also include a photo. If you can, send a photograph of your child or your family.
  • Double check your work.  If possible, have a friendly "editor" look it over before you send it.

Sample Letter

Your Full Name
Your Address
Your Phone Number
Your Email

Date
 
The Honorable _____
Office (e.g., Governor of Louisiana, House of Representatives, Senate)
Mailing Address
City, State, ZIP
 
Dear Governor/Senator/Representative _____ :
 
(First Paragraph - Introduce yourself): "My name is Annie Advocate.  I am one of your constituents and a strong supporter.  I am writing to you as the parent of Jennifer, who is five years old and has severe developmental disabilities."
 
(Second Paragraph - Describe your issue or concern): "My family would benefit from Individual and Family Support services that would help us keep Jennifer at home.  Jennifer has extensive needs and requires around-the-clock care. We are years away from receiving a waiver slot and in desperate need of respite care that can be provided through the Individual and Family Support program. Unfortunately, funding for this vital program has been cut drastically in recent years."
 
(Third Paragraph - Tell the policymaker what he/she can do to help):  "I urge you to support the restoration of funding to the Human Services Districts/Authorities for the Individual and Family Support Program.  We are at the end of our ropes - physically, emotionally, and/or financially - struggling to provide for our daughter's needs at home, and there are many other families like ours.
 
(Fourth Paragraph - Ask for a response):  “I am very interested in knowing your thoughts on this important issue. I look forward to hearing from you."
 
Thank you for your support,
Annie Advocate


Steps for Writing an Email

Writing an email is similar to writing a letter with a few minor changes.

  • Open your email with a proper greeting.
  • Introduce yourself.
  • Describe your issue or concern.
  • Tell the policymaker what he/she can do to help.
  • Ask for a response.
  • Close with thank you.
  • End with your personal contact information. Unlike a formal letter that begins with this information, your email should end with your full name, address, phone number and email address.
  • Add a personal touch. You can attach a photo to your email.
  • Double check your work

Follow Up

  • Ensure your letter/email is received. If you don't receive a response soon, call to be sure the policymaker received your letter. Ask again for a response.
  • Say thank you. Find out how the policymaker acted on your issue. Write to thank them, if appropriate.
  • Share your experience.  Be sure to let your LaCAN Leader know if you receive a response

Etiquette and Other Tips

  • Be polite, respectful and reasonable.  Do not threaten or belittle your policymaker.
  • Be brief. It is best to address only one issue in a letter. You don't get extra points for more words or extra statistics. Try to keep it to one page.
  • Be specific about your concern and what you want the policymaker to do about it.
  • Be clear.  Avoid jargon or overly technical language.
  • Be yourself.  Do not use form letters - these are ineffective.  Use your own words - do not pull out a thesaurus. You don't have to be an expert, just explain your point of view.  Personal stories and observations are the most persuasive. 
  • Be sure your letter is legible. It doesn't have to be typed, but it should be easy to read.
  • You can "recycle" the language from your letter in letters to other policymakers, or to the same policymaker next year.
  • If you are sending emails to multiple policymakers with the same message, save time by cutting and pasting the body of the letter into multiple emails.  This can be done by highlighting the original text, right-clicking, and selecting copy.  Then, opening a new, blank email, right-clicking, and selecting paste.  Simply update your greeting with the new policymaker’s name and you’re ready to hit send.
  • Local libraries often have free classes on using basic Microsoft Programs such as Word (to type letters) or Outlook (to send emails).  Check with your library for more information.

References

Connecticut Health Policy Project (n.d.). Writing to policymakers. Retrieved from http://www.cthealthpolicy.org/toolbox/legislative/writing_policymaker.htm
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