Good communication is key whether you are visiting, phoning,
or writing your legislator or meeting with that legislator's staff.
A successful advocate will often use all of the following methods.
Face-to-face meetings have the most impact. A constituent from an elected official's own district can have a significant impact on a given issue. The key to a successful visit is to be prepared. Get to know your legislator before an important issue needs to be addressed. It is very important to establish a good working relationship with your legislator. When meeting face-to-face, be prepared to effectively and clearly communicate a timely and specific message. Schedule your visits when the governing body is not in session. It is often convenient to meet with federal legislators in one of their district offices. Congressional representatives typically return to their districts during recesses, on weekends and between sessions. Call the district office to schedule a visit.
See Tips for Meeting with Legislators.
It is advantageous to get to know the district office staff. Call the day before your visit to confirm your appointment. If you are part of a delegation, keep it small enough (3-4 people) for easy communication of ideas. Leave your business card, a one-page outline or summary of your main points, and any background materials. Follow your visit up with a written thank you note.
In your initial visit it is important to identify which staff members handle education issues and who will be your ongoing contact. Make sure they know who you are, what organizations you are affiliated with, what your concerns are, and why they are important to the legislator's constituents. Communicate what you want from them on specific issues and legislation.
See Visit Your Legislator at Home and Visiting a Legislator in Washington, DC.
Telephone calls are easy and appropriate. Regular contact with staff is possible and desirable, but be direct and concise. The best time to call is to ask for support before a hearing or floor vote or to convey urgent local or national concerns.
See Contacting Your Legislators by Telephone.
Email and Fax
These are fast, easy ways to communicate with legislators whether the need for action is critical or not. Email and fax are the most direct ways to write your legislator, for increased security measures have made it impossible for ground mail to get through in a timely fashion. The same guidelines apply to emails and faxes as to writing letters to Congress.
Note that because of increased security measures, ground mail is not a good choice for communicating with your legislator. Instead send your letter as an email or fax. Letters are an effective form of communication and have the greatest impact when used with other personal contact. Letters elicit responses. Letters have significant impact on legislators because your letter is considered to represent other less vocal constituents. They are also a concrete statement of your viewpoint, which the legislator may use to help make decisions about their stance on an issue.
See Tips for Writing Elected Officials.
NCTE member Clarissa West-White offers a "A Quick Guide to Practicing Advocacy."
The Legislative Process
Please contact Millie Davis or Lori Bianchini, NCTE Communications Division, for assistance with your questions about speaking with the media or with legislators: firstname.lastname@example.org; 217-278-3634 (Millie) or 217-278-3644 (Lori).