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:
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If there are less pertinent issues that require more explanation, but affect you, be sure to briefly reference those topics as well.
- 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Check back later for updated 2022 Talking Points