New Research Confirms the RESULTS Model of Advocacy
Several RESULTS staff members participated in a webinar today hosted by the Congressional Management Foundation focusing on effective ways to communicate with members of Congress. The webinar sponsors conducted a poll of over 250 staff persons from congressional offices and asked a number of questions on what is effective when the grassroots is communicating with Congress, summarized in the report Communicating with Congress: Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on Capitol Hill (see the summary at: http://pmpu.org/2011/01/26/perceptions-of-citizen-advocacy-on-capitol-hill/). The results are very enlightening. They show that the advocacy training and practices RESULTS teaches fall right in line with what is effective in creating political will. Here are some of the highlights from their research.
First and foremost, the vast majority of respondents said that personal communications with members of Congress are the most influential action a constituent can take. Face-to-face meetings topped the list; 97 percent said the meetings had a lot or some positive influence. Also influential are individualized letters (90 percent), individualized e-mails (88 percent) and phone calls (86 percent). The message was clear; the more personal the message is, as opposed to a form letter or e-mail, the more impact it has (Note: changing even a few sentences from an online e-mail form to personalize it does count as personalized).
When asked what constituents should include in their communications to influence the process, respondents said that showing how the legislation or issue impacts the member of Congress’ (MoC) home district was by far the most important (77 percent). Next was the constituent’s reasons for taking up the issue (74 percent), followed by the constituent’s personal story as to why he/she cares about the issue (48 percent). It is important to note that talking about the impact of legislation locally does not mean simply citing statistics; the researchers said that having someone who is a representative constituent, i.e. someone who is personally affect by the issue and can share their story, makes a big difference.
Finally, when asked what means of communication are best for understanding constituent views on the issues, the top response was meetings in the district at 98 percent, followed closely by personalized messages (letters, e-mails, etc) at 97 percent. Town halls were also important in understanding constituent viewpoints. Facebook and other social media were not as influential; only 64 percent of respondents said that their offices rely on Facebook for constituent views and only 42 percent use Twitter for that purpose. However, that could change as social media grows.
We may have more findings from this research in future blog posts and updates. For now, it was certainly clear to those of us on the webinar today that, while we are always looking to learn how to be better advocates, RESULTS is already doing a lot of the right things in our efforts to build the political will to end poverty. Keep up the great work!