How to Write Congress

How to Write Congress

In a recent survey, 96% of congressional aides reported that if the member of Congress was undecided on an issue, personalized letters would influence his or her position. With thousands of bills going through congress, letters are also effective means for getting a bill noticed by the leader and staff. The best letters to decision-makers are brief and to the point. Click here for links to email forms that can be quickly filled out.

Writing Letters and Emails to Congress

1Who are you and what is the issue you are writing about? Start off by introducing yourself, indicate that you are a constituent, as well as writing as a volunteer for the Borgen Project.

2What are your points of concern? Use a “hook” and then explain the “problem.” The hook should be a short statement that engages the reader, usually featuring an interesting fact.

3Why does this issue/bill matter to the U.S.? Give the decision-maker reasons to support the issue. Look beyond the obvious reasons, eliminating poverty alone might not be a persuasive argument. Often, discussing the effect of poverty-reduction on American Jobs, or National Security can be an alternative motivation for the same action.

4What are your recommendations for action? Ask for something specific, usually in the form of a request to support a specific bill. If possible refer to any legislation by name and number and summarize what it is for.

Sample Letters to Congress

Sample Letter 1

Date

(Name of your senator/ representative)
US Senate/House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator/Rep Name,

The numbers can be overwhelming.  Around the world, nearly 1 billion people are hungry, and one child dies every 3.6 seconds from poverty, lack of clean water, hunger, and preventable diseases. XXXX

I am writing to urge you to support XXXXX XXXXX.

Using federal dollars to respond to these issues of poverty doesn’t only put the United States in a position of international leadership, but it’s also clear that poverty reducing international aid directly comes back to positively impact American jobs.

 In 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called on Congress to better fund international aid programs. The world’s largest business federation opposed all cuts to the International Affairs Budget stating, “Diplomacy and development programs are essential to creating jobs and spurring economic growth in the United States.” 1 out of 5 American jobs are export related and 45% of our exports now go to developing nations.  The Paul Simon Water for the World act is one more opportunity to encourage consumer growth in developing markets.

If passed, the XXXXXX Act would provide XXXXX for XXX million people.  XXXX is an important part of stabilizing the future for these individuals, and an important step to opening new markets for US companies. I urge you to cosponsor House/Senate Bill X.XXX. 

I would appreciate your reply, and would also like to thank you for taking the time to read my concerns, and giving consideration to supporting this bill.

Sincerely,

Your Name
Your Address

Sample Letter 2

Date

(Name of your senator/ representative)
US Senate/House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator/Rep Name,

The numbers can be overwhelming.  Around the world, nearly 1 billion people are hungry, and one child dies every 3.6 seconds from poverty, lack of clean water, hunger, and preventable diseases. XXXXXX 

I am writing to urge you to support XXXXXX.

Using federal dollars to respond to these issues of poverty doesn’t only put the United States in a position of international leadership, but it’s also clear that poverty reducing international development is an important cornerstone of the National Security Strategy (Defense, Development, and Diplomacy).

 Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen; General Colin Powell, and more than 50 retired three- and four-star Generals have all recently called on Congress to better fund the International Affairs budget and development programs as a crucial means of protecting the United States. The National Security Strategy of the Bush Administration pointed out “poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders.”  The XXXXX act is an opportunity to fight poverty, and the desperation that often comes with it.

If passed, the XXXXX would provide XXXXX for XXX million people.  XXXX is an important part of stabilizing the future for these individuals, and an important step to ensuring greater security for United States interests. I urge you to cosponsor House/Senate Bill X.XXX. 

I would appreciate your reply, and would also like to thank you for taking the time to read my concerns, and giving consideration to supporting this bill.

Sincerely,

 

Your Name
Your Address

How One Letter
Fed a Million People

In 2004 President George W. Bush was in the White House Rose Garden signing a bill related to hunger. Among those attending this signing ceremony was Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a church-based nonprofit that seeks to reduce hunger and fight AIDS worldwide.

Dr. Beckmann saw an opportunity to give a pitch to the leader of the free world for another program close to this organization’s heart, the Millennium Challenge Account, which seeks to relieve hunger in the eight poorest nations in the world. It had received $1 billion in funding in 2004, but like any good advocate, David Beckmann wanted more.

He approached the President and asked him to increase funding for the Millennium Challenge Account, pointing out how much good just a little additional funding could do. President Bush asked his friend, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Lugar, what he thought of this program. Senator Lugar said, “You know, I am just now responding to a letter from a constituent, Mrs. Connie Wick of Indianapolis. She is saying just what you are saying, David, that we should fully fund the Millennium Account, the AIDS initiative, and not cut funding for ongoing programs to help poor people.”

At the time, Connie Wick was 83 years old and lived in Robin Run Retirement Community on Happy Hollow Road in Indianapolis, Ind. She was not a wealthy contributor to a political party, had never run for public office, did not lead legions of followers, and never went golfing with a member of Congress. She was one voice, one person, who felt that America should do more to help feed the hungry. In the President’s proposed budget for the following year, the Millennium Account funding rose from $1 billion a year to $2.5 billion.

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence. Or perhaps the President of the United States, when he was considering the budget for the next year, had Connie Wick’s words in mind. As you consider your role in the democratic process, remember that you have the power to change the world. And, remember the most important lesson our founding fathers taught us: Politics is too important to be left to politicians.

(Citizens Handbook)

Contact the President:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

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