Letter Writing for Effective Advocacy
As a leader in the affordable housing arena, CCH joins with other organizations in advocating for legislation and programs to address the nation’s housing needs. Advocacy can take many forms and each of us can make a difference by pushing for necessary reforms.
A first step is to be aware of housing issues and to share your opinion. As discussed in a previous issue, giving public comment is one such avenue. Another highly-effective means is to send informed letters to your elected officials advocating for change.
When taking part in a letter writing campaign, there are some key pointers to keep in mind:
Timing is everything. Campaigns are most successful when there is a solid window of opportunity within the legislative process to consider and apply written suggestions. Letter writing is most impactful when it comes around a crucial vote or decision.
Keep to a specific topic. It is best to address an issue when it’s alive and relevant. The impact of correspondence can be lost if the subject matter is more topical or general in nature without advocating for a specific policy or piece of legislation. Be as specific as possible for the greatest impact.
Collective participation heightens awareness. Letters are most effective when written together. This can be done, for example, by using a template from an advocacy group in support of a cause. You can personalize the template by adding your own personal touch and telling your story which adds meaning and personal flavor.
Less is more and specifics are best. A one-page limit to an elected official is best. This may seem short, especially for crucial issues, however legislators with hundreds of letters to sift through are looking for impactful statements that make a case for a specific vote, regulation, or action. Referencing specific legislation, in as much detail as possible, offers the legislator a reliable, quick reference point.
Respect your legislator, but remain firm. Letter writing often occurs when constituents are passionate about a particular policy, practice, or regulation. Passion can lead to powerful letters, however be careful to avoid an accusatory tone. Making accusations is not an effective way to address elected officials. You should always maintain a respectful demeanor.
Always include your personal address. Elected officials represent constituents in a particular geographic area. Using your address allows for quick and easy identification of yourself as a constituent and provides a way for representatives to send a reply back to your letter.
Ask for a response. An important part of letter writing is to invoke an individual response, rather than an automated one. Ask directly how the elected official intends to vote or for information about the actions they plan to take regarding a particular issue.
Remember, your voice carries weight! Collective participation raises awareness and makes an impact in helping pass crucial legislation and programs.