Making Your Letters Count!
Below are suggestions provided by the Lutheran Office
for Governmental Affairs
of the Division for Church in Society for your use when writing
representative, senator, vice president, or president.
- You have something to say, an opinion to offer, a story to tell, a
request to make,
a question to ask.
Influence: Frequently mail is light on an issue, thus making your letter very
significant. If mail is heavy, yours may be very important to offset
heavy mail with a different opinion.
- Constituent communications are more influential than the media,
government information sources, lobbyists, and many other forms of
- Your stories
and pleas both change attitudes and votes, but also support and
WHO TO WRITE
- Those officials you elected are always most responsive; therefore,
Senator, Representative, Governor, President.
- Occasionally, the elected leaders within the Senate and House and
the related committees also need to hear from you. Learn who those
people might be for the issue that concerns you.
- Members of the administrative or executive branch responsible for
implementing the program or caring for the issue that concerns you.
WHERE TO WRITE
- Write to either the Washington, state capitol, or home district
offices. As a constituent, your letter may get
more notice at the district office.
WHEN TO WRITE
- Early in the session to raise the need for responding to a concern.
- Later on to address specific legislation and the issues being
- As the legislation is being considered in committee, on the floor,
or before the President or Governor for consideration.
- Often enough to be known and respected - but not too often to be a
pest. Get others to write to increase the chorus of voices on an issue.
WHAT TO SAY
- Spell name of official correctly. Use accurate title.
- Write your
own letter, don't use a form letter. Handwrite personally and neatly or
- Use personal stationery with your return address
or organizational letterhead if authorized to use.
- Be brief! Short paragraphs, too! One page, if possible.
- Be positive! Avoid criticism, veiled threats, name-calling,
personally judgmental statements. Express appreciation for recent
speech, vote, or action indicating both your courteousness
- Address only one issue in a letter.
- State who you are.
- State what you are writing about, what you want done. Come to point
quickly. Be specific.
- Give reasons for your concern,
commitment, request. Draw on personal experience, specific situations.
Identify impact of the issue on people (your family, your community,
people in other parts of the world.) Identify the human justice
aspect of the issue.
- Ask specific questions. The more specific and original, the more
thought provoking and the more thoughtful the response. Also ask, "How
do you plan to vote?"
- Summarize and restate main points in last paragraph.
WHAT ABOUT POSTCARDS, PETITIONS AND FAX
- Mass produced postcards do not get the same attention as your personal
personal postcard does not get the same attention as your letter.
- Petitions receive less attention than your personal
- Use FAX only if it must arrive same day - then follow up with "hard
copy" of the letter.
- Any of the above are better than nothing, but use good judgment.
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR LETTER
- Each letter is read quickly to identify issue and viewpoint and
forwarded to appropriate staff.
- Staff assesses content of mail, persuasiveness of points made,
volume of opinion, and summarizes the information.
- Quotable phrases, stories, and statistics are forwarded to
legislator/Member of Congress for use in meetings, speeches, and
- A reply is prepared: computerized if responsive to your letter,
personalized if your request or
question is unique. If the response is vague, evasive or misunderstands your message,
- DON'T FORGET TO MAIL THE LETTER! First class, too!
- Write back. Ask follow up question, provide additional information.
Find out which staff persons works on your issue and
address that person directly, too.
- Write a "thank-you" letter when you appreciate action!
The Lutheran Office for
Governmental Affairs and your state Lutheran public policy
office appreciate receiving copies of
your letters and their