Working with the Community: Activist Milestone #2
October 22nd, 2009
Organize a Letter-writing Meeting in Your Community
The Power of the Pen
Letter-writing meetings are a great way to engage people in your community in advocacy that is quick, easy, and effective. It gives people the opportunity to take learn and action on an issue is a friendly casual setting. It also exposes people to RESULTS’ work, which could lead to new members for your group. The great thing is that bringing people together for the important task of letter-writing is easier than you think. Letter-writing can happen in a number of settings, such as:
- A natural component of your group’s monthly RESULTS meetings.
- A community outreach event or conference.
- Before or after a faith community service or event.
- A party with a purpose, i.e. have a potluck with friends and serve a little advocacy for dessert.
No matter what your choice, you can know that a personal, well-written letter for one of our issues is more than a letter; it is democracy in action.
Action Sheets — A Help To your Letter-writing
Even before you choose the setting for your letter-writing, you may want to determine your topic and goal for your work. Do you want to speak to a member of Congress, to the media, or even to the administration?
If you are drawing a blank on what a timely, powerful letter-writing topic might be, not to worry. RESULTS provides monthly action sheets with talking points and background information that will provide you with the information you need to write a timely, compelling letter. Check out the latest monthly action sheets on our website and find one that works for your group.
Additionally, you can read Working With Congress Milestone #3 “Write a Letter to Your Member of Congress” and Working with the Media Milestone #1 “Write a Letter Write a Letter to the Editor” for more great tips.
Organizing Your Meeting
The logistics for your letter-writing gathering don’t have to be complicated to be effective. Make sure you have plenty of the following on hand:
- Copies of the action sheets you’ll be using
- Paper and pens
- Envelopes and stamps (see note below)
- Address of the DC office of your chosen legislator(s) or of your local media.
Allow an hour so that activists have a chance to read through the materials and ask questions, write their letters, and even share them with the group if they wish. Make sure that each letter has the full name, address, and phone number of the writer.
Note: All mail sent to congressional offices in Washington is now screened for anthrax, so we suggest you fax a copy of your handwritten letter to Congress, mail or deliver your letter to the local district office, or contact your members of Congress via e-mail (which is still less effective than a handwritten letter). The simplest thing is for you or someone else to fax the letters in all at once. If this is an option, simply offer to collect the letters and fax them.
Following up on your letters is just as important as writing the letter itself. Follow-up not only allows you to find out what the response is to your letter, it also helps to develop relationships with congressional staff, that is key to creating political will. Therefore, encourage each member of your meeting to do their follow-up!
If a letter was sent to a congressional office and a response is desired, do not hesitate to use the legislator contact details off the RESULTS website to make a follow-up call. Anyone can use this as an opening for further conversation, including the booking of a face-to-face meeting with an aide or with the congressperson. Additionally, if a letter was meant for print in your local media and it gets published, send a copy to RESULTS Communications Director Colin Smith. Be sure to also send a copy to the relevant legislators in your area; this will show that not only do you speak out on hunger and poverty, but you are available to voice support back in the home district when any legislator takes action on our issues.