How to write an Elected Official / Community Leader

How to Write an Email or Letter to an Elected Official/Community Leader

Elected officials rely on citizens to help keep them apprised of what is taking place in their constituency. Working with and getting to know lawmakers and other officials and familiarizing them with your concerns allows them to advocate for their constituents. In addition to elected officials, you may find yourself meeting with staff for elected officials, business leaders, officials of national organizations, and others who can be important to your cause. Establishing personal relationships with a wide network of community leaders gives you credibility with lawmakers and with the community at large.

AAPPD frequently provides its advocacy network with “calls to action” that can include contacting an elected official or community leader by phone, email or letter. While our requests come with talking points and examples to help advocates construct their communications, there are some steps you can take any time you reach out to an elected official to help your email or letter have the greatest impact.

 Here are eight items you should always include in communications with elected officials and community leaders: 

  1. Let the legislator know you are a constituent in their district (e.g. your offices are in their district, you provide services in their district, or you personally live in their district, whichever applies)
  2. Let them know that you have been paying attention to their work on your issue (that you appreciate their support or would like to ask them for their support).
  3. Use the talking points provided to you to help craft a personal story to support your ask (for support or opposition) and use personal examples to support the talking points.  If you do not have talking points, concisely explain your issue and use personal examples. If you are provided talking points, make sure to use them – they were crafted to ensure all communications have consistent information.
  4. When you share personal information about yourself, your family or your business, only provide the information you are comfortable sharing; the more concrete information you can share, the better.
  5. Many elected officials and community leaders place a high value on empirical data – that is, information or facts that can be backed up by actual documents or studies. Be sure that you are using information that is factual and relevant (can you back it up and does it apply to the current day) – again, the more you can use specifics from your day to day life or organization, the more impact you will have.
  6. If there are less pertinent issues that require more explanation, but affect you, be sure to briefly reference those topics as well.
  7. Thank the elected official for consideration of your issues. Say that you look forward to working with them on the issue or solving your problem.
  8. Provide additional contact information if you are comfortable doing so.  Sometimes staff will verify that you are a constituent by double checking the address provided.   Also, feel free to leave a phone number where you can be reached.  Sometimes, elected officials would like to reach out to gather more information and a phone call is easier for them or their staff.

 

These tips also apply to preparing to call an elected official or community leader. When preparing for a phone call, make sure you form your own set of talking points and questions in order to be brief and to get the most out of your phone call. 

Don’t worry if you don’t receive an immediate response to your communications. Many elected or community leaders have busy schedules and numerous requests for their time. You should feel free to follow up with the individual’s office if you don’t receive a timely response, but know that depending on the volume of communications or requests an official receives, the review time could take several weeks to a month. You should also be open to speaking to staff for elected officials and community leaders. Often staff are tasked with researching an issue and reporting back to the elected official – getting to know staff members is a great way to build your own advocacy network.

Communicating with elected officials and community leaders can be intimidating. Remember, you have valuable information to provide and they may not be up to speed on your issue and how it affects you as their constituent. If you are advocating at AAPPD’s request – thank you! Always feel free to send responses and questions from elected officials and other community leaders our way. Email us at info@aappd.org with questions. 

Feeling lost and want an example? Take a look at the talking points and two example letters we’ve provided below. These letters were written from the provided talking points using the tips above as examples for our advocates to use as inspiration for their own communications with legislators. While the issue may differ from yours, you will be able to get a feel for the length and structure of a well written letter or email.

EXAMPLE Talking Points

*Please remember that these talking points are an EXAMPLE only – take a look at our Calls to Action section of the AAPPD website for the most up to date talking points and letter/email examples.

  1.  Let the legislator know you are a constituent in their district and how… (could be that you are a board member of a company that is in their district or provides services in their district or you live in their district.  Could be that you are a family member of an individual that receives services in their district)
  2. …while you appreciate the Executive budget recommendations to restore adult dental coverage (or provide vocational rehabilitation funding, or both) and hope these recommendations stay in the budget, neither recommendation provides help towards the growing shortage of qualified direct care workers. 
  3. As a board member, you are aware that your agency has experienced _____% turnover, currently has ______ positions open that have been open for _______ days/weeks.   Due to funding levels, your starting wage for entry-level direct care workers is ________  (only provide the information you are comfortable sharing; the more concrete information you can provide, the better).
  4. As a family member, your loved one has seen too many caregivers in the last year.   Perhaps your loved one regresses when there is change and this change has not been good for your loved one.  Explain the situation.  
  5. You can use the following AAPPD statistics in addition to your specific information, as needed.  If you are uncomfortable using specifics from your company, please use these:
    1. AAPPD providers are seeing, on average, a 55.9% turnover rate in our direct care staff.
    2. In more rural areas and areas with smaller labor pools, providers are experiencing turnover rates between 70 and 85%. 
    3. AAPPD members believe the major factor in the direct care workforce shortage is the inability for providers to pay a competitive wage - not only a competitive wage within the caregiver industry, but a completive wage with the industries like food serve and retail. 
    4. Because of the high turnover rate, providers are experiencing tremendous increases in training costs and overtime.  On average, training costs have increased by $156,000 per provider.  
  6. Please help to provide additional funding to address this direct care worker shortage for the most vulnerable Arizonans.  
  7. Thank your legislator for the consideration of your issues.  You look forward to working with them on solving the direct care workforce shortage. Include your contact information so that they can follow up.

EXAMPLE LETTER #1

*Please remember that this letter is an EXAMPLE only – take a look at our Calls to Action section of the AAPPD website for the most up to date talking points and letter/email examples.

 

Dear Representative XXXXXXXX, 

As you may recall, my company provides services in your district to about 150 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).   I am reaching out to you because you have always been a great advocate for individuals with IDD.   

I currently receive about $4.00 per day to cover the cost of food for the individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in my licensed residential settings.  While there is a line item for the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DES) Room and Board that appears in the proposed Executive budget, the funding does not increase the rate that we receive to purchase food, utilities, and a home for individuals. The funding will allow the Division of Developmental Disabilities to cover its own internal shortfall, but it does not increase the actual funding received that will directly affect our individuals. The room and board rate is approximately 50% of what it actually costs us to provide room and board for individuals.  Room and board are the basic, minimal needs for individuals.  It is food, water, utilities, shelter. When basic food, water, utilities, and shelter are inadequate, individuals are at a health and safety risk.

This is not the only underfunded rate. Rates for DD services continue to be at levels that are under our actual cost to provide services.  My company is sorely struggling to maintain services for Arizona’s most vulnerable citizens, especially individuals residing in remote and rural areas of the state.   Our costs continue to rise due to general increases in rents and utilities, but also due to changes at the federal level.  Federal law and rule changes have also increased our costs.   

We are not the only agency struggling.  Agencies across the state are also suffering. 

We very much appreciate the Executive budget including funding for adult dental coverage and we support this line item, but without some type of financial relief in rates, I fear for the health and safety of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the state.

My contact information is below.  Please let me know if there is something we can do to create change for this year’s budget. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 
 

Sincerely,

 

XXXXXXXX

EXAMPLE LETTER #2

*Please remember that this letter is an EXAMPLE only – take a look at our Calls to Action section of the AAPPD website for the most up to date talking points and letter/email examples.

 

Dear Senator XXXXX,

My company, ______, provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities in your district.  I am very concerned about our inability to hire direct care workers to take care of our most vulnerable individuals.  While the Executive budget does provide much needed funding for adult dental coverage, the overall recommendations do nothing to help me raise the starting pay for the individuals that are directly involved in the care for one of our most vulnerable populations. 

Depending on the service we provide, caretaker labor accounts for 70% - 80% of our cost.  Currently, the reimbursement rates we receive are below the benchmark reimbursement rates for the services we deliver.  This rate is based on a study done every five years by the Division of Developmental Disabilities; unless they or the Legislature change the reimbursement rates, providers are left with rates that do not even cover our costs in many cases. 

My organization lost $350,000 in our last fiscal year.  We have cut everything that we can, but still expect to lose that same amount this fiscal year.  Our turnover rate for direct care staff is 75%.   I believe we are unable to fill positions and unable to keep staff because we can only afford to pay $9.12 an hour as a starting wage.  This wage is woefully inadequate for the care these individuals are providing and does not allow us to compete with retailers whose starting wage is higher than I can pay.    

If we don’t obtain a substantial rate increase of at least 5%, we will be out of business within about 1½ years.  A rate increase would help us to stay afloat until these issues can be addressed properly.    We serve about 150 clients in rural Arizona; if we close, individuals will have to go to more urban areas to find care. 

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.  My contact information is below. 

 

Respectfully,

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