Your members of Congress are reading your local paper every day, trying to understand what their constituents care about. They need to know you won’t stand by when anti-poverty programs come under attack. Even one published letter can make a big difference. If this is your first letter, here are some tips to help (check out more in our letter to the editor basics):
The shorter the better! Aim for no more than 150-200 words.
Make it personal. You can start with the template below, but customize with your own ideas, examples, and passion.
Not sure where to submit? Check out the “opinion” section of the website for your local daily newspaper – most papers have an online form or an email address like [email protected].
Keep a look out for your letter in print and, if you’re published, share on social media and with your members of Congress.
To the editor:
New census data shows that 1 in 8 Americans are living at or below the poverty line. So why are some members of Congress taking aim at the very programs that help working families put food on the table and get the basics to survive?
Programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit lifted X million people, including X children, out of poverty last year. Gutting these programs to pay for a tax break for millionaires is unconscionable. I hope I can count on our representatives [INSERT YOURS] to stand with families and kids here in [YOUR STATE].
If you want to garner more attention to the issue, have a compelling story to share, or simply want more room to advocate, submit an op-ed to your local paper. Use our Census data op-ed template as a guide to get started. If you need help with LTE or op-ed ideas or editing something you’ve written, please contact Jos Linn ([email protected]) for assistance.
Use Poverty Data to Empower Others
Let’s take a step back and remember why we are here, what our mission is: to create the political will to end poverty. Now, more than ever, we need people across the country to feel empowered and inspired to speak up. We need to educate, but also listen to and learn from one another. The release of the 2016 Census data provides us an opportunity to not only talk poverty, but to listen, learn, and rediscover why we care about fighting it. Here are some ideas for generating both conversation and action in your area:
Hold a “Community Conversation”
Plan an event in your community and market your event as a conversation about poverty (or advocacy or taking action). Make the issue the focus of your event rather than simply RESULTS. Additionally, a conversation denotes more discussion than lecture. People want to learn from you but they also want to contribute. Utilize tools like the new Census poverty data, a film screening, or panel discussion to open up a conversation more broadly about poverty and how it impacts your community.
Example: RESULTS Seacoast NH/ME held a community conversation titled “Let’s Talk Poverty” and had 150 people in attendance. The “talk” was followed by a RESULTS advocacy 101 training and the group gathered 32 new members for their action network and 5 new, committed members
Cover the What, Why, and How
Whichever tool you utilize (Census data overview, advocacy training, a short film, panelists, etc.) can be a jumping off point to ground folks in the “what” of poverty. What is the state of poverty in America, in your state, in your local community? What does it mean to experience poverty? What are the solutions?
Then take time to share your “why.” Why do you care about this issue? Ask others to share and learn from them. What moves us to take action is what motivates and sustains us. It is your story and the stories of others that help connect people to this. To help you, look back over your reflections from the August webinar and the storytelling exercise in our August 29 weekly update.
Give and Take (Action)
Once you cover the what and why, get to the “how.” How can we effectively fight poverty? How is it done? Adding a training and action component to your community conversation allows people to build skills, and gives them a tangible takeaway for their time. Use the last half of your time together to learn how to speak powerfully with the EPIC tool, write a Letter to the Editor (this month’s action!), or research your members of Congress. Ask folks to take an action together, right then and there. Make it exciting, make it meaningful, and make it easy. This is what RESULTS volunteers do best!
Example: The RESULTS Arkansas Tech University chapter opened up a community dialogue and asked people to make phone calls to their member of Congress. The event was after office hours (when they’d have to leave a voicemail), so that took a lot of the intimidation out for new people. After the call was modeled by a volunteer, others made their calls and the everyone got excited knowing a small group of people was to take action that night, and wanted to do more (i.e. send messages via social media). Taking action is a strong hook – make sure you prepare to give people more to do!
Remember: You are Planting Seeds
With every interaction, whether a one-on-one conversation with a neighbor, tabling at an event, or a wider community conversation, you are planting seeds. Your goal does not always have to be recruitment of new volunteers. You are building a movement and a discussion is fertile ground. RESULTS is replete with stories of people remembering a training or conversation days, months, or even years later and deciding “now I am ready.”
But also take advantage of the moment. There may be some ready to jump in right now so make sure to explicitly ask if anyone is interested in getting involved with your local RESULTS group and promptly follow up with them about next steps (i.e. invite them to your next meeting). For those who are not ready to join, ask them to join your local Action Network (e-mail list of people who will take action at important times). The key is to keep the conversation going. You never know when someone in your community will connect to their why and make the decision to join you in the fight against poverty. Be ready to welcome them and keep inspiring each other.
Resources: See our Outreach Resources page for advocacy trainings, Action Sheets, participation forms and other resources to help with your community conversations.