For Youth Moving Forward stickers or advocacy postcards to mail to legislators contact Youth Moving Forward
Finding your elected officials:
Federal officials: Use the District Finder or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your senators’ and/or representative’s office.
State Officials: Use the District Finder or call the Minnesota House of Representatives at 651-296-2146 or Minnesota Senate at 651.296.0504. They will ask for your home address.
Telephoning your elected officials
Telephoning is a quick and easy way to let your elected officials know what you care about.
Tips when calling your elected officials:
1. Ask to speak with the aide who handles the issue about which you wish to comment and ask for their name in case you need to speak to them in the future.
2. Identify yourself as a constituent and tell the aide you would like to leave a brief message.
For example: “Please tell Senator/Representative (Name) that I support/oppose (S.__/H.R.__).”
3. State reasons for your support or opposition to the bill.
For example: I support this bill because it provides funding to the Runaway and Homeless Youth act. I think all young people deserve safe and supportive housing.
4. Ask for your senators’ or representatives’ position on the bill. You may also request a written response to your call.
Visiting elected officials
Meeting face-to-face with policymakers not only allows you to fully explain your concerns but also allows them to ask questions. Such meetings can help you both to develop a better understanding of an issue. Most legislators will find time to meet with constituents, if possible.
A few guidelines when meeting in person with your legislators:
- Call the legislator in their office at the Capitol or their home district. It is best to schedule meetings with legislators rather than “dropping in.”
- Let them know you are a constituent and what issues you want to discuss.
- You can take one or two other people with you, but it isn’t necessary. Keep the group small.
- Respect the legislator’s schedule by being on time.
- Keep the meeting brief and to the point. Excess information undermines your core message. Plan by making notes for yourself, and stick to your plan of one or two points.
- If a legislator asks a question you can’t answer, it is OK to say you don’t know. Supplying the information later (but promptly) is a great way to follow up and continue to build the relationship.
- Listen carefully to the legislator’s questions and concerns about your issue. Don’t become defensive. The questions can help you understand the other arguments being made and how you can address them.
- Ask if more information would be helpful to clear up questions and concerns.
- Ask politely, but directly, if they support your issue.
- Bring a one-page fact sheet to leave with them. The sheet should contain your most important points, what you want them to do and your contact information. Be sure to leave your contact information: name, address, phone and email.
- Thank legislators for their time. Their time is in great demand and your courtesy will be well received.
- Send a note of thanks for their support, if support was indicated, or for the opportunity to present your view. If you were unable to answer a question during the visit, look up the answer and include it in your letter.
Writing an effective letter
Many members get as few as 10 letters from constituents! The letter is a powerful, yet underused tool.
A few tips for writing an effective letter to your legislators:
- Request something Your purpose for writing should be stated in the first paragraph of the letter and you should address only one issue per letter—kept to one page, if possible. For example: “Please help us care for people with disabilities by opening up the waiver waiting list. There are currently more than 5,000 people who are waiting for the opportunity to participate and contribute to their communities as well as to be cared for in a setting that is more appropriate for their needs.” Or, If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, identify it accordingly, e.g., House bill: H.R.___, Senate bill: S.___.
- Give a reason Describe why this issue matters to you and the people you care about. It’s very nice to add the story of one person or family as examples to support your position.
- Add your thanks and request a response Be courteous and polite as you want to build a relationship with your legislator. Include your home address so the legislators will identify you as a constituent. For example: Thank you for all the work you have done for the people you represent. Will you please let me know if you will vote to open up the waiting list?
- Salutations on envelope are: The Honorable (Last Name) Salutations in the letter are: State Legislators: Dear Representative/Senator (Last Name) U.S. Representative: Dear Congresswoman/man (Last Name) U.S. Senator: Dear Senator (Last Name) Note: When writing to the Chair of a Committee or the Speaker of the House, it is proper to address them as: Dear Mr. Chairman or Madam Chairwoman or Dear Mr. or Madam Speaker
- Email Be SURE to put your home address in the subject line of the email, so you are quickly identified as a constituent. The same guidelines apply as with writing letters. When using an electronic service, it is always best to use your own words.