Letters are an important tool in advocacy. Legislators 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.
Writing down your thoughts gives you time to think through what you want to say and ensure that your message is clear and concise. A letter is also a permanent method of communication as policymakers can refer to it as needed.
Here are some basic steps for writing an effective advocacy letter:
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 on the envelope because envelopes often get separated from the letters.
Put a Date on Your Letter
I’m sure you can understand the importance of dating your letter. It’s great to have as a point of reference of when you sent the letter.
Write the Policymaker’s Contact Information
Use a legislator’s district office address when the legislature is not in session. If they are in session, you can still send to the district office, but it may get there a little later. During a legislative session, an email may suffice as most lawmakers have email on their phones and desk computers on the capitol floor.
Open Your Letter With a Proper Greeting
Be sure to include the policy maker’s title before their name, such as, “Governor Edwards” or “Representative Henry” or “Senator LaFleur.”
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 lawmaker understand your needs.
Describe Your Issue or Concern
Explain how the issue has or will affect you, your family, your local community, or state. Let the policymaker know what they can do to help. Being clear and specific is important. This is also an excellent opportunity 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 their view concerning your issue.
Always Close with Thank You
Be sure to thank them for their consideration of your concerns as well as taking the time to read what you have to say. Being appreciative goes a long way!
THE MOST IMPORTANT TIPS:
Handwrite your letter!
Handwritten letters are well received by legislators. It’s a personal touch that lets them know that the issue matters enough that you took the time to handwrite a letter!
If You Can, Include a Photo!
It is also recommended to include a picture if possible of your child or your family. Putting a face to an issue helps the legislator personalize the issue!
Double Check Your Work
If possible, have a friendly “editor” look it over before you send it. Nothing speaks so loudly as misspelled words and bad grammar! It matters that you have thought it out and that you can express your thoughts in an organized and correct manner. Some even type out their letter, do a spell check and grammar check (I recommend Grammarly.com!) then handwrite that content!
We have provided a sample letter for you below as a template you can use!
Your Full Name
Your Phone Number
The Honorable _____
Office (e.g., Governor of Louisiana, House of Representatives, Senate)
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 Johnny, who is five years old and has severe developmental disabilities.
(Second Paragraph – Describe Your Issue or Concern)
My family would benefit from having the right to . . . . .
(Third Paragraph – Tell the Policymaker What They Can do to Help)
I urge you to support the rights of parents to make the best-informed decisions on behalf of their families . . . . .
(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 again for taking the time to read my letter and for your support,