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Writing to congress

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Writing to congress
February 01, 2019 1st Anniversary Wishes 4 comments

What is the best way to write a letter to Congress or the Senate? Writing a member of Congress or a Senator can be difficult, so make sure you adopt the best.

Write to Congress

Bread for the World urges elected leaders in Washington, D.C., to enable people in our nation and our world to feed their families and move out of poverty.

Personalized emails stand out. They tell senators and representative that you, as a constituent, really care about an issue. Members of Congress want to hear from their constituents about the issues on which they will vote in the Senate and House of Representatives.

The following are issues moving in Congress and/or in the administration. This is your opportunity to change policies, programs, and conditions that allow hunger and poverty to persist here and abroad.

2019 Offering of Letters: Better Nutrition, Better Tomorrow

Good nutrition during the 1,000-day period from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday is critical to a child’s health and future well-being.

To accelerate progress on nutrition, we must scale up what we know works: improved access to nutritious foods, vitamins and minerals, clean water and sanitation, promotion of breastfeeding, and treatment for severe malnutrition.

All children deserve the opportunity to live a healthy life and reach their full potential. Join us in making this opportunity a reality!

Take Action on this Issue    Learn more

Migration and Immigration

Immigration is a hunger issue. People who make the decision to leave home and come to the United States generally have few other options. Central America’s “Northern Triangle” countries—Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—are among the poorest in the world, with very high levels of hunger and malnutrition.

Any truly effective immigration policy must include lasting solutions to the push factors of migration: hunger, malnutrition, extreme poverty, and violence. Stricter U.S. immigration laws and harsher border enforcement policies alone will not keep desperate parents from trying to give their children a better future.

As our country continues to debate immigration reform, we must acknowledge the United States cannot have a comprehensive immigration strategy without a focus on supporting countries’ efforts to create environments that help people survive and thrive in their homes and communities.

This year, Congress has the opportunity to strengthen the United States’ development and humanitarian assistance by investing in development assistance targeted to help countries in Central America respond to and address the causes of forced migration.

Take action on this issue    Learn more

Criminal Justice Reform

Reforming our nation's criminal justice system is critical to ending hunger and poverty in the United States. Families are directly impacted when loved ones are incarcerated, especially if they are serving long prison sentences.

Harsh mandatory minimum sentences, combined with the lack of rehabilitative programs for people in prison, exacerbate hunger, poverty, and existing inequalities.

People lose income and work skills while serving time in prison. They also often lack opportunities to participate in rehabilitative programs, making it even harder for many to find a job after leaving the prison system. This explains why 1 in 4 households headed by a returning citizen lives in deep poverty.

Reforms, such as reducing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders, eliminating the collateral consequences to incarceration, and expanding access to reentry services would help reduce hunger and improve the stability of families in the United States.

Take Action on this Issue    Learn more

"Jesus said ...
'You give them something to eat.'"

Matthew 14:16

If you don't have time for an in person visit (either in the district or in DC), don't despair. Below you will find tips and tools for writing or calling your legislators and.

Snail Mail Congress

writing to congress

Where can I find a list of public e-mail addresses for members of Congress?

There is no central listing of member office public e-mail addresses. Each member of Congress establishes their office's policy related to the processing and management of e-mail. Generally, if a member has a public e-mail address, it can be found on the member's website. The office may list a public e-mail address or provide a form directly on the member's website. The U.S. House of Representatives does not provide a listing of public e-mail addresses for the elected Representatives.

What should I do when I enter my ZIP code information and I get the wrong elected Representative?

The Find Your Representative service matches the ZIP code information you provide with a list of congressional districts. If you receive an error due to a missing ZIP code or incorrect member information, please use the Contact Webmaster form to report the problem. Select the appropriate error category (Report an error in the Find Your Representative service.) and provide as much information as possible to assist us in researching the problem. Please be sure to include: Your Street Address, City, State and ZIP code, the member or congressional district information you are trying to reach and the member or congressional district the service is reporting that you feel is in error.

Can I forward my message through the Contact Webmaster mailbox?

No. The webmaster will not forward messages to congressional offices. If you are having problems contacting your representative, you can report the problem using the Contact Webmaster form, write or call your elected representative, or visit the member's website for alternate contact information.

Are there alternative ways to reach my elected representative?

If you know who your representative is but you are unable to contact them using their contact form, the Clerk of the House maintains addresses and phone numbers of all House members and Committees, or you may call (202) 224-3121 for the U.S. House switchboard operator. In addition, you may choose to visit your member's website directly for further information.

What is the proper form of address when I write my elected representative?

There are several correct forms of address for a member of Congress including "The Honorable" and "Representative".

Is it okay for my company / organization to link to the Find Your Representative service?

The Find Your Representative service is provided as a public resource for identifying and contacting a constituent's elected representative. There is currently no restriction on a link being posted to the Find Your Representative page at http://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative to facilitate constituents in expressing their concerns and issues to their representative in Congress.

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Writing to a Member of Congress

writing to congress

People who think members of the U.S. Congress pay little or no attention to constituent mail are just plain wrong. Concise, well thought out personal letters are one of the most effective ways Americans have of influencing the lawmakers they elect. 

Members of Congress get hundreds of letters and emails every day, so you will want your letter stand out. Whether you choose to use the U.S. Postal Service or email, here are some tips that will help you write a letter to Congress that has an impact.

Letter or Email?

Always send a traditional letter. While it is easier to send an email, and all Senators and Representatives now have email addresses, written letters get more attention and have more impact. The Senators and Representatives and their staffs get literally hundreds of emails every day. Emails from their constituents are mixed in with emails from fellow lawmakers and staff members and are thus easily overlooked or disregarded. In addition, taking the time to send a traditional, handwritten letter is the best way to show you “really care” about the issues you are addressing.

Think Locally

It's usually best to send letters to the representative from your local congressional district or the senators from your state. Your vote helps elect them—or not—and that fact alone carries a lot of weight. It also helps personalize your letter. Sending the same "cookie-cutter" message to every member of Congress may grab attention but rarely much consideration.

It's also a good idea to think about the effectiveness of all of your communication options. For instance, a face-to-face meeting at an event, town hall, or the representative's local office can often leave the biggest impression.

That is not always an option though. Your next best bet for expressing your opinion is a formal letter, then a phone call to their office. While email is convenient and quick, it may not have the same influence as the other, more traditional, routes.

Finding Your Legislator's Address

There are a few ways that you can find the addresses of all of your representatives in Congress. The U.S. Senate is easy because each state has two Senators. Senate.gov has an easy to navigate directory of all current Senators. You will find links to their website, their email and phone number, as well as the address to their office in Washington D.C.

The House of Representatives is a little trickier because you need to search for the person representing your particular district within the state. The easiest way to do so is to type in your zip code under "Find Your Representative" at House.gov. This will narrow down your options but you may need to refine it based on your physical address because zip codes and Congressional districts do not coincide.

In both houses of Congress, the representative's official website will also have all the contact information you need. This includes the locations of their local offices.

Keep Your Letter Simple

Your letter will be more effective if you address a single topic or issue rather than a variety of issues you may feel passionate about. Typed, one-page letters are best. Many Political Action Committees (PACs) recommend a three-paragraph letter structured like this:

  1. Say why you are writing and who you are. List your "credentials" and state that you are a constituent. It also doesn't hurt to mention if you voted for or donated to them. If you want a response, you must include your name and address, even when using email.
  2. Provide more detail. Be factual and not emotional. Provide specific rather than general information about how the topic affects you and others. If a certain bill is involved, cite the correct title or number whenever possible.
  3. Close by requesting the action you want to be taken. It might be a vote for or against a bill, a change in general policy, or some other action, but be specific.

The best letters are courteous, to the point, and include specific supporting examples.

Proofread Your Letter

Always proofread your letter before mailing it. Read over it at least twice, checking for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. Make sure you have not repeated yourself, failed to make your points clearly, or left anything out. An error-free letter adds to your credibility. 

Identifying Legislation

Members of Congress have a lot of items on their agendas, so it's best to be as specific as possible regarding your issue. When writing about a particular bill or piece of legislation, include the official number so they know exactly what you're referring to (it also helps your credibility).

  • House Bills: "H.R._____"
  • House Resolutions: "H.RES._____"
  • House Joint Resolutions: "H.J.RES._____"
  • Senate Bills: "S._____"
  • Senate Resolutions: "S.RES._____"
  • Senate Joint Resolutions: "S.J.RES._____"

Addressing Members of Congress

There is also a formal way to address members of Congress. Use these headers to begin your letter, filling in the appropriate name and addresses for your Congressperson. Also, it's best to include the header in an email message.

The Honorable (full name)
(room #) (name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator (last name):

The Honorable (full name)
(room #) (name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative (last name):

Contact the U.S. Supreme Court

The Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court do not have email addresses, but they do read letters from citizens. You can mail letters using the address found on the SupremeCourt.gov website.

Key Things to Remember

Here are some key things you should always and never do when writing to your elected representatives.

  1. Be courteous and respectful without "gushing."
  2. Clearly and simply state the purpose of your letter. If it's about a certain bill, identify it correctly. 
  3. Say who you are. Anonymous letters go nowhere. Even in email, include your correct name, address, phone number, and email address. If you don't include at least your name and address, you will not get a response.
  4. State any professional credentials or personal experience you may have, especially those pertaining to the subject of your letter.
  5. Keep your letter short—one page is best.
  6. Use specific examples or evidence to support your position.
  7. State what it is you want to be done or recommend a course of action.
  8. Thank the member for taking the time to read your letter.

What Not to Do

Just because they represent the voters does not mean that members of Congress are subject to abuse or belittlement. As impassioned as you may be about an issue, your letter will be more effective if it's written from a calm, logical perspective. If you're angry about something, write your letter then edit the next day to ensure you're conveying a courteous, professional tone. Also, make sure to avoid these pitfalls.

Do not use vulgarity, profanity, or threats. The first two are just plain rude and the third one can get you a visit from the Secret Service. Simply stated, don't let your passion get in the way of making your point.

Do not fail to include your name and address, even in email letters. Many representatives prioritize comments from their constituents and a letter in the mail may be the only way you receive a response.

Do not demand a response. You may not get one no matter what and demand is simply another rude gesture that does little for your case.

Do not use boilerplate text. Many grassroots organizations will send out a prepared text to people interested in their issue, but try not to simply copy and paste this into your letter. Use it as a guide to help you make the point and write the letter in your own words with your personal perspective. Getting thousands of letters that say the exact same thing can diminish the impact.

If you don't have time for an in person visit (either in the district or in DC), don't despair. Below you will find tips and tools for writing or calling your legislators and.

How to Contact U.S. Senators

writing to congress

What is it? How does it work?

Snail Mail Congress is a tool that makes contacting your members of congress through postal mail even easier than sending an email. First, we help you find your elected representatives based on your address. Next, you write a short letter about an issue you care about and choose which reps to send it to. After you click send, we'll print out your letter(s), address them, apply postage and send them off!

Will you help me write my letter? Is there a template I can use?

We'll handle formatting your letter so it looks professional, but the content is all up to you. Your members of congress don't care too much about generic, form letters.3 A short, personal message has much more impact.

Does it cost anything to send a letter?

Paper, ink, stamps (postage), envelopes and envelope licking aren't free (unfortunately). To keep the service sustainable we have to charge $1.28 per letter. Coincidentally, $1.28 is exactly what it costs us to send out one letter. We're always searching for ways to lower the price and we hope to eventually offer the service for free.

Why snail mail? Can't I just send an email?

Email is the most common way people contact congress. Staffers are often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emails and sometimes use computers to tally and respond to messages.4 Snail mailing gives your message a better chance of being noticed. Additionally, your members of congress care about "advocacy that requires effort — the more effort, the more they care.3" We'd like to think that by using Snail Mail Congress, you get all of the extra credit for sending a physical letter, without any of the extra effort.

How long will it take for my letter to arrive?

We'll typically send your letter within 1 business day and then it take 2-3 business days to arrive. Mail sent to your official's DC office goes through a security screening process that adds an additional delay. To avoid this delay, and to ensure your letter is read sooner, we'll send your letter to your official's district office.

How will I know when my letter is sent?

Every letter gets a status page where you can track its progress (and share it if you want). Optionally, you can leave us your email address and we'll send you a notification when your letter is sent.

WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: Are you wasting your time, writing messages to your Congress person?

People who think members of the U.S. Congress pay little or no attention to constituent mail are just plain wrong. Concise, well thought out personal letters are.

writing to congress
Written by JoJokasa
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