BECOMING AN ADVOCATE
You can be an advocate just by writing to or calling your legislators. You can also meet with a legislator, join rallies, sign petitions, or vote. Registering to vote is especially important because it proves to your legislators that you have the power to hold them accountable on Election Day.
SENDING A LETTER OR AN E-MAIL
Writing is an effective way of making your cause known. A letter or an e-mail from one person indicates a likelihood that others share the same concern. It also leaves a paper trail - physical evidence that the public has noticed an issue.
Include your name, mailing address, phone number, and e-mail address. Unless you know the legislator personally, use the proper salutation:
- Senator/Representative: "Dear Senator/Representative [LastName]"
- Member of the Senate/House Leadership: "Dear Mr./Madam [Title]" (e.g., "Mr. Speaker")
- The Governor: "Dear Governor [LastName]"
The body of your letter/email should answer the following questions:
- Who are you? Mention whether you are a constituent, businessperson, member of an organization, etc.
- What do you want? State the title and number of a bill, or line item if relevant, and where this matter is in the legislative process. Specify the action you want taken, such as voting on a bill or moving it out of committee.
- Why should your legislator take action? Describe your position, include any compelling statistics, and give examples of how the issue affects you, your community, and any organization that you may represent.
Close by offering to provide additional information upon request. Thank the legislator for his/her time and repeat your contact information. Type your name and/or handwrite your signature. Your letter/email is ready to be sent!
CONTACTING YOUR LEGISLATOR BY PHONE
Calling your legislator can add a sense of urgency. You will likely speak with an aide. That's OK. Treat the aide as you would the legislator, and get his/her name for follow-up calls. Begin by introducing yourself, and keep your conversation brief. You can reach Massachusetts state legislators at (617) 722-2000.
MEETING WITH YOUR LEGISLATOR
Meeting with a legislator puts a personal face on the cause you represent and demonstrates your dedication to an issue. Developing a relationship with a legislator can serve as an effective method of addressing your concerns.
Schedule an appointment at your legislator's office. You may not always be able to meet directly with the legislator and instead meet with an aide. That's OK. Treat the aide as you would the legislator. Aides often have more time to focus on a specific issue and can influence how your cause is presented to the legislator. Create a fact sheet, including the line item number and bill title, that can serve as a reference for you and your legislator.
Start by thanking your legislator for his/her time. If the legislator supported your issue in the past, express your gratitude for that as well. Introduce yourself and provide background on your issue and how it affects you, your community, and any organization that you may represent. Specify what you are asking of your legislator, such as a vote for or against a bill, an increase in funding on a specific line item, etc. Ask how the legislator perceives the issue. If the legislator asks a question to which you do not know the answer, it is perfectly acceptable to say that you are unsure and will provide an answer at a later date.
Remember to follow up! If your legislator supports your cause, you may ask how you could be of assistance. Leave your contact information in case any questions or developments arise in the future. Thank the legislator again for meeting with you, shake hands, and be on your way.
Regardless of your legislator's position, do not issue an ultimatum or force a commitment. Expressing your passion is sufficient, whereas getting angry would leave a negative impression upon you and your cause. Since legislators are busy, they appreciate advocates who respect their time.