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General Communication Tips
The tips below are general communication tips, regardless of your method of communication. See the resources below as well as additional tips pages on calling, writing, and meeting legislators for tips specific to the task.
1. Find your elected official.
- Click the red link above and use this interactive U.S. map to quickly identify your Senators and U.S. Representative. Click on his or her photo to obtain contact information.
- This site will also provide a short biography about your legislator, committee memberships, staffs names, and other useful information for quick background research.
Do not use the U.S. postal service to send letters to Capitol Hill. If you do not have access to FAX or email, then your next alternatives are to hand deliver the letter or mail it. The anthrax screening process takes up to four weeks and delays delivery of your letter. It also leaves mail yellow and brittle and legislative aides generally do not like it.
2. Decide whether you will call, write, or meet with your legislator.
- If it’s urgent, CALL. Calls are good for simple requests that can be easily delivered by phone.
- More in-depth communication, like sharing program data and communicating success stories, may be better conveyed in writing (letters sent via FAX, email) or in-person.
3. Develop a concise, well-argued, personalized message.
- Adult literacy action alerts contain the message and the Ask. You will need to personalize that message and tie it to your experience locally.
4. Deliver the message.
- Calls: 1-3 minutes
- Faxes: 15 minutes
- Emails or letters: 20-60 minutes
- Meetings: varies but includes significant planning time
5. Report back.
- Inform your advocacy network coordinator (someone who runs a local, district, or state adult literacy advocacy network) that you made your contact.
- Share what you learned. For example, did you discover that the office is receiving a lot of calls on the issue? Or was this the first the office has heard about it? Did you learn what action the legislator will take?
6. Follow up.
- Send a thank you note; quickly restate the purpose of your initial communication in your thanks. Contacts are more effective when combined with follow up.
- Thank the legislator if he or she supported you.
- Send any promised materials or call back in two weeks to see what progress the legislator or aide has made on your issue.
- Always be polite, trustworthy, and dependable. Your legislator will count on you to be a resource person on adult education and literacy issues in your area.
- If your legislator made a commitment about getting back to you or signing a letter, for example, get this in writing if possible.
Advocacy Tips—Strategies for Everyone
ProLiteracy offers general advocacy tips.
American Library Association (ALA)—Ways to Communicate
The ALA provides tips on calling, writing, and meeting with your legislator.
Communicating with Elected Officials: Tips from TESOL
Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) offers tips on telephoning, writing, and emailing legislators.
Guidelines for Advocacy from the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE)
The state directors provide lobby guidelines for public employees and nonprofits, including tips for meeting, writing, and calling your legislator.
Hosting Local Policymakers and Key Stakeholders: The Los Angeles County Office of Adult Education offers a number of tips for family literacy programs in preparing for the visit, hosting the visitor, and following up after the visit. The guide has a template to complete that will help with preparation.
The ALA provides tips on using petitions as an advocacy tool.
Staging a Rally
Rally planning tips from the ALA.
Stand Up and Be Counted
The Pennsylvania Association for Adult and Continuing Education (PAACE) provides a succinct ‘how to’ manual for adult educators who want to learn more about participating in public policy advocacy. This manual is foundational to understanding and demystifying grassroots advocacy and contains tips for communicating with legislators.