If you are organizing a letter-writing campaign on behalf of your coalition’s members, it is more effective if the communications are personal rather than simply a stack of identical form letters. Members of the coalition should write in their own words and include personal anecdotes. To assist them in doing this, you should provide a fact sheet that outlines the facts of your particular issue(s) and your coalition’s position. The purpose of the fact sheet is to help your members write letters; it is not intended to be sent in lieu of or with a letter.
Lobbying Tip: Form Letters Are Weighed, Not read
A majority of mail received by government officials, particularly legislators, consists of preprinted postcards, form letters and handwritten letters with identical wording. Be aware that this type of communication will not receive personal attention. The writers will receive a form letter in return, and it is almost certain they will not receive individual scrutiny. A well-organized personal letter-writing campaign can be a more effective tool to influence government officials’ decisions and views.
Still, there can be value in conducting a massive letter-writing campaign. Officials will want to know the number of "automated" pieces of mail a particular issue is generating. This will alert him to the fact that a grassroots movement has been mobilized and may have the potential to generate increased interest, support and media attention.
Encourage coalition members to select one of two of the issue or messages contained in the fact sheet and concentrate on them rather than repeating all of the subjects. The selection of issues should be left to each individual writing a letter. This will ensure the officeholder hears a variety of viewpoints.
The fact sheet should contain the following:
- Statement of the issue(s)
The coalition’s position on the issue(s)
Status of the issue; i.e., pending legislation, administrative action, policy decision, etc.
List of reasons to support or oppose the issue(s)
Action you want the government official to take
Pay special attention to responses that suggest general sympathy with your cause, but state they do not support your position on a particular issue. Such an official may be a prime candidate for follow-up meetings. You may be able to persuade the official by discussing his or her specific reservations. If a response includes erroneous or incomplete information, immediately draft a polite follow-up letter that includes the correct information and offers additional data and assistance. This draft should be sent by the person who originally contacted him or her.
If an official does not respond to your letters within a month, try sending a second letter that mentions the first correspondence. Public officials, especially Members of congress, are often overwhelmed with mail and some respond more quickly than others. Some officials only answer letters from their district or state. In these cases, you may need to visit the office personally.