aggregated with a pie chart displaying support vs. opposition in real time. Since this data is sortable by state and Congressional district, it can serve as a tool to hold a Representative or Senator accountable. By making sentiment on bills transparent and public, we hope to empower individuals and organizations with tools to hold Members of Congress accountable. When you’re attending a Congressional town hall meeting or visiting a Congressional office, be sure to mention the “opinion pie” chart — and how the Member’s position compares. And have a specific action in mind for the Member, such as “co-sponsor this bill” or “vote for this bill,” and make sure to ask.
Target your Representative or Senators
Perhaps the most crucial tip to contacting Congress and launching a successful advocacy campaign is this: Members of Congress only want to hear from their own constituents—and no one else. If you have a point of view to express or an “ask,” address it to your own Representative or Senator.
Many find this recommendation frustrating, especially if your Representative or Senator isn’t the decision-maker you want to sway. They may not sit on the relevant committee of jurisdiction — or they may have heard from you already. But when you send your thoughts to another Member such as the Committee Chairperson instead of your own Member of Congress, the staffer processing your correspondence will automatically forward it to the appropriate office, that is, your own Member of Congress. For Congress, it’s a matter of “professional courtesy.”
If your own Member of Congress is already a cosponsor of a bill you’re supporting, then reach out to your friends and networks — particularly those represented by Members that haven’t co-sponsored the bill. Urge them to send a message to their Members of Congress, and watch the “opinion” pie charts move!
POPVOX users often write to me and ask, “I wrote to my Member of Congress. Now what?” It’s great that they’ve taken the first step. I then encourage them to share their personal story of why they support (or oppose) the bill with their friends and networks. Use Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or any other social media you have available to spread the word — but be sure to email, call or talk to your friends face-to-face about the issue.
Professional lobbyists often share the endorsements or testimony of local “influentials” with Congressional offices. Follow their lead and talk to your local elected leaders, including your city council or school board members; PTA leaders; or even religious officials. In many cases, they may already have a personal relationship with the Member of Congress you’re trying to inform about your issue.
You may also want to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or post on community blogs about your campaign. And be specific so others can take action. Instead of writing about land rights in general, mention a specific bill and why you support (or oppose) it, and share a link to encourage others to write to Congress as well.
Technology is making communicating with Congress easier than ever. And while a lobbyist may have in-person access, with a little creativity and strategic thinking, you could leverage your networks to the same effect. Remember, it’s your right to communicate with Congress — and your Representatives and Senators want to hear from you. So make your communication worthwhile, and get heard! Sign up for free advocacy tools like POPVOX and start contributing today. Be part of a movement forward: empower yourself and others around the issues that move you the most.