What is Advocacy?
An advocate is a person who speaks, writes or acts in support of a person or issue. Practicing advocacy allows you to clarify your personal values and beliefs, use your voice about something important to you and help affect change. One way you can be an effective advocate is by contacting your elected officials to express concerns about a particular issue. This can be a great way to raise awareness for various prevention issues, such as underage drinking, marijuana use and prescription drug abuse. It’s vital to let your representatives know that prevention is important to you!
The most effective way to advocate is by meeting with your representatives in person, followed by making a phone call. However, written communication is a great option when we may not have access to in-person meetings. All forms of advocacy are valuable. If you choose to contact your elected officials in writing, follow these tips to ensure professional and meaningful correspondence.
How to Find Your Elected Officials
Find out who your senators are here. Find out who your representative is here and get their contact information here.
How to Write a Letter or Email to Your Elected Officials
The below information (minus how to address your envelope) is relevant for both a mailed letter or an email to your elected official. One thing to keep in mind if you choose email correspondence is that your message should still follow these guidelines and be as professional as possible. Don’t make the mistake of being informal just because you use email. Take this opportunity to make a firm, positive impression!
ADDRESS YOUR ENVELOPE
The Honorable [Full Name]
[Room #] [Name of] Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable [Full Name]
[Room #] [Name of] House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
PROPERLY ADDRESS YOUR ELECTED OFFICIAL
Senators should be addressed with “Dear Senator [Last name].” Members of the House of Representatives should be addressed with “Dear Representative [Last name].”
Begin with an introduction of yourself, including relevant information about any groups or organizations you may be representing. You can provide some personal details relevant to your issue. For example, if your issue is underage drinking, you may explain that you are a parent to teens or you are a high school student.
DISCUSS THE ISSUE
Provide a brief statement of your issue or concern. It is best to address only one issue per correspondence. Explain why it is important, using facts from your research. Try to be concise and only include a few well-thought-out arguments. Whenever possible, you should list facts in bullet points to make them easier to read.
REQUEST A SPECIFIC ACTION
State what you are asking for, whether it is support for or opposition to the particular issue or bill.
PROVIDE YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION
Give your full name and street address, including zip code, as well as a phone number or email address. Offer to serve as a resource if more information is needed. If mailing a letter, provide your signature at the bottom.
No matter what method of communication you decide to use, remember these tips:
- Always provide your full name and street address, including zip code. This will help prove you are a constituent of that particular elected official.
- Do your research ahead of time. Providing facts related to your issue will make your argument much stronger.
- Be as concise as possible. Stay brief and to the point to best get your message across.
- Be courteous. Even if you are passionate about the issue and/or disagree with your elected official, rude comments or insults make your message less effective. You can be firm and still be polite.
Another thing to consider when diving into advocacy is whether there are more local elected officials who could help support your issues, such as within your city or county government. Advocacy happens at all levels of government. Examples of these individuals could be city commissioners, county commissioners, school boards, mayors, governors, etc. Access to these individuals is easier, and because they usually represent a smaller constituency, your voice may have a bigger influence. If you choose written correspondence with these individuals, you can still use the same letter/email template listed above, making adjustments where necessary.
Ready to be an advocate for prevention? If you have any questions, feel free to contact Michael Davis at email@example.com.
Information adapted from American Association of Law Libraries and National Education Association.