Question: What about those “form letter” emails?
As a social justice advocate, you, like me, probably belong to several groups that ask you to click on a link so that they can send an automatic email from you to an elected official. You may wonder: Does this method work to influence legislators? The answer is yes and no.
Point and click advocacy can work if:
- The emails come from inside the elected official’s district (and show the writer’s name and address).
- The volume of form emails is so great that it draws the attention of the elected official.
- The organization documents how many emails were sent and a leader from the group visits the elected official to say (for example) “You have heard from 75 of our members in your district today.”
It does not work if:
- Emails are not from constituents. In fact, the legislator may feel it was a waste of their staff’s time to open those emails and resent the organization for taking valuable time that could have been used to respond to constituents.
- Only a few emails are received.
- There is no follow up from the organization’s leadership.
Ways to be more effective than/when pointing and clicking:
- Nothing substitutes for building a relationship with your own elected officials. Find out who they are – if you do not know – by using the legislator look-up tool at: http://www.senate.mo.gov/LegisLookup/Default.aspx
- Ask your elected officials their preferences for how you make contact. Do they want to be called at their office? At their home number? What email address do they prefer?
- Set up a time to introduce yourself. Often legislators will accept a coffee meeting with a constituent – or an in office appointment. Share a few of your major concerns and ask the legislator to do the same. Watch for places of connection. Where do your priorities intersect with their priorities?
- When an organization offers you a form email to send, if an editing option is available, change the subject line and text so that it is “in your own words” instead of a form email. Changing the first paragraph and subject line are especially important to catching their attention as an individual, not form, correspondence.
Empower Missouri wants our members and allies to move through “the life cycle of being an advocate” – from beginner, to experienced, to truly seasoned and wise. Wherever you are in that cycle today, we can be a resource to help you take the next step toward being even more empowered and effective. Attend our events; read our emails; and write or call us to ask for advice about how to increase your own power as a citizen advocate.
Jeanette Mott Oxford