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Civil War Trust

Tips for Communicating With Legislators

General Tips » | Calling Your Legislator » | Writing Your Legislator » | Meet in Person »

General Tips

Legislators appreciate hearing from their constituents. Don't forget: they are elected to represent YOUR views.

When contacting your legislators, a short sentence or two about why you personally support or oppose a certain proposal is often best. Most importantly, always be courteous and clear when communicating with your legislators.

  • Be specific;
  • Ask for action;
  • Use time wisely;
  • Plan out your remarks;
  • Solicit support from your legislator;
  • Tell the truth;
  • Be respectful;
  • Follow-up: write a thank you note.

Timing is very important: If your issue is imminent, contacting your legislator quickly by phone or e-mail can be most effective. However, if time allows, take advantage of additional influential techniques, like writing a letter or meeting with your Members of Congress and/or their staff.

Forge relationships with staff: Legislative staff are extremely important, and it is very beneficial to develop a working relationship with staff assigned to your issue. When it comes time for action, knowing someone to call will pay off. Whether meeting staff located in the district offices or Washington, these relationships will prove invaluable.

Voice your position: Legislators act on behalf of their constituency. Even if your legislator does not currently support your position, contacting them and voicing your concerns is a good way to put your issue on their radar screen.

Know the issue: Legislators are concerned with multiple issues, so be sure to provide good information. Offer information, including background or leave behind materials explaining the issue (for instance, our Blue, Gray & Green Report or one-pager on battlefield preservation). Additionally, ask questions about your legislator's stance toward the issue, and be ready for your legislators to ask about your position.

Share information. It is very important to relay any information you receive from your legislator to your organization, community, family and friends. Information helps to broaden the audience by increasing awareness of your issue. You may want to consider submitting an op-ed or letter to the editor to your local newspaper. Sharing this information on social media is another great idea.

Calling Your Legislator

Tools for Calling

Phone It In!

If the time is limited, then it's time to take immediate action by calling your lawmakers! Your phone call could be the call that helps push forward our fight to preserve America's hallowed ground. To find their contact information, use one of the tools at the right.

Key things to remember when you call:

Be professional. Establish credibility by communicating your position in a courteous, factual and professional way. Additionally, make sure you speak clearly, loudly and slowly when talking to your legislators or their staff.

Provide your information. Legislators and their staff want to know how their constituents feel about certain issues, so once you identify yourself as a constituent (not to mention a voter), they will be much more receptive.

Knowledge is power: Legislators are concerned with multiple issues. A quick and factual call not only saves time, but is easily absorbed and remembered by legislators and their staff. Report facts and figures and stay on message to make the best argument for battlefield preservation. If you also want to provide tourism information, check out our Blue, Gray and Green Report.

Thank staff for their time and consideration: Congressional offices hear complaints all the time, and just like anyone else, they feel rewarded when their actions are appreciated. Always say thank you.

Writing Your Legislator

Tools for Writing

Letter writing campaigns, both physical mail and e-mail, enable you to directly express your position on an issue to your Senators or Representative. As in all writing, make sure to know your audience. It's also important to be courteous, clear, concise and factual when communicating with your legislators.

After finding the best way to contact your legislator, the additional tips below will help you begin:

Identify yourself as a constituent. Legislators and their staff are much more receptive once they know they're talking to a constituent (not to mention, a voter).

Voice your position. After identifying yourself as a constituent, begin with a short explanation about why you personally support or oppose a certain issue. You may want to include how this affects your community and the local economy.

Know the issue. Legislators are often concerned with multiple issues, so make your call count by providing information sourced from sound, scientific research, like the Blue, Gray and Green Report. A quick and factual message will demonstrate to your legislators and their staff that you are a well-informed constituent who means business.

Always say thank you. Legislators' offices hear complaints all the time, and just like anyone else, they feel rewarded when their actions are appreciated. Thank you notes are also a great way to keep your issue at top-of-mind.

Use the tools at the right, such as our form letter or talking points, to being planning your message to legislators.

Schedule a Meeting

Tools for Meeting

Meeting with your legislator or staffers in the legislator's district or Washington, D.C. office is an excellent way to voice your position. An in-person visit will give you a chance to look them in the eye and voice your concerns on battlefield preservation. Not to mention, you will stand out from thousands of phone calls, mail and e-mail messages. If you need help finding your elected officials or want more information on them, check out the tools to the right.

Once you've tracked them down, it's time to plan a strategy for your meeting.

Legislators are concerned with multiple issues, so be sure to provide good information. Offer information, including background or leave behind materials explaining the issue.

Leaving visual handouts, flyers or petitions, like those found in our resources section, is a great way to explain your stance on the issue. If you want to provide good tourism statistics, use Blue, Gray and Green Report. Or, pass along our one-pager on battlefield preservation as a way to introduce your legislator to the benefits of preserving America's hallowed ground.

Ask questions about your legislator's stance toward the issue, and be ready for your legislators to ask about your position.

Developing a relationship with district or Washington, D.C., staff is important. When it comes time for action, knowing someone to call will pay off. Don't be discouraged if staff members are young. These individuals will one day be old hands, and thanks to your relationship with them, they will be able to open doors previously closed.

Always say thank you. Follow-up after your meeting by writing a thank you note to each staff member with whom you met. Also be sure to thank your legislator for his or her consideration. Additionally, it is important to relay any information you receive from your legislator to your organization, community, family and friends.

Other Ways to Take Action

Use whichever medium is most comfortable and convenient for you. Whether you visit in-person, call or write, be sure to always give your legislator your name, address and telephone number, so they know you are one of their constituents (it makes you a big deal in their eyes). We have resources for many methods of contacting your representatives on our Speak Out page. Go Back to Speak Out »

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