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I have learned four things over the years writing to or working with legislators:
1) Emails and letters do get personal attention from a staffer, especially non-form personal emails (and letters, of course). Most legislators understand email now and snail mail gets no preference. I have my Scouts who are working on their Citizenship merit badges write to their various legislators all the time, both regular and email, and they nearly always get a polite and reasonably appropriate response.
2) Regarding appropriate responses, if your message fits a predefined category you will typically get an off-the-shelf response created by the staff to address that issue. Some were written years ago and can be laughingly out of date. But if you have a little twist to your subject, you stand a chance of keeping it out of the paper-mill and getting someone to draft a personal response.
3) Non-form, personal emails get a much higher priority than the “click-the-action-button” type. Click-the-button types get put into YES and NO piles; personal emails get someone’s personal attention.
4) The phone call has both a plus and a minus. On the plus side it gets MUCH, MUCH more attention than an email. Most staffers will take time to talk with you if you are polite, on topic and reasonably knowledgeable on the subject. However, once you hang up, it’s all up to the staffer’s memory, the impression you made, and any notes he/she might have taken. An email or letter is forever, and if noteworthy, may actually make it into the hands of the legislator him/her self.

(Although it might make for some entertainingly Dadaist politics. "Dear Senator: I'm a voter in your state, and I'm emailing you today to tell you that I have no opinion about health care reform. I don't know very much about the issue, and I haven't yet made up my mind about it.")

Every letter I receive from my Republican Senator reads like a response to this. She carefully explains what the bill I'm writing about would do, and thanks me for my opinion. Um, ma'am, I don't need to know what the bill will do, I need to know if I have your support.


"I get twenty calls to action a week. If I called or emailed every time I got one, I'd never get anything else done."

How about the converse problem? I hardly ever see any calls to action, or perhaps I just fail to recognize them. If there is no explicit call for action, how do I recognize something as an issue I should write about? And who is the appropriate representative to write to for which issues?

Laura Upstairs

An appallingly low number of people respond to email alerts. I work for an organization with an email list of thousands of people (who have intentionally signed up because they support our issues and WANT to be notified about actions to take). We use best practices for communicating with folks (stick to one issue at a time, etc.), and the average response is under 5%. Sometimes less than one percent.

We have consultants who spend a lot of time trying to figure out what would get a slightly larger percent of people to respond, and there doesn't really seem to be much that can get people who are already invested in an issue to take action.

Bill Brent

"If I have time to watch "Entourage" and read "Cute Overload," I have time to call or email my Congressperson."

LMAO. Absolutely. Furthermore, you don't even have to be a currently registered voter in order to call or email. Your opinion still counts.


Jen R

Leo, would it help to follow up phone calls with an email summarizing our main points?


Laura Upstairs, how are you sure they aren't drafting non-form emails or calling without notifying you?

Anyway Greta, you got me, and I just emailed my senators and representative. Might now go email the president and majority and minority leaders. The minority leader's email might be entertaining "I realize it's political death from your constituency to support this, but do what's good for the country and don't oppose it too emphatically"



Hunter Fan

Some may have the time to answer phonecalls..good thing the CONGRESS did not resort to call centers.

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