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Return to Legislative Action Center > Grassroots Toolkit

The Ideal Grassroots Campaign

Effectively Voice Your Concern on Capitol Hill

The ideal grassroots campaign coordinated by a LAT leader or team member will combine phone calls, letter writing and polite persistence to achieve the desired result. The most important element of a successful grassroots campaign is follow-up. There are many different ways to voice your concerns to your Members of Congress. Below are a few suggestions for contacting your Senators and Representative.


FMA LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY TIPS


Congressional staffs play a key role in FMA’s grassroots legislative advocacy efforts. Here are some tips for effective grassroots legislative advocacy:

  • Congressional staff turnover is relatively high compared to that of the Executive Branch. Make sure you are up-to-date in knowing the name of your Member of Congress’ staff person in charge of handling civil service or federal agency issues.
  • Congressional staffs are generally very busy, especially when Congress is in session. When contacting them, try to be cordial, concise and factual. Present information in a complete manner that answers the questions who, what, when, where and why.
  • When talking with congressional staff about a specific issue or when making a request, be prepared to give them something in writing explaining FMA’s position.
  • If legislative action favorable to FMA occurs, take the time to call the staff involved to thank them personally for their efforts and send a thank you letter.


TAKE ACTION


WORKING ON AN ELECTION CAMPAIGN

Volunteer efforts for campaigns are just as important as grassroots efforts. Working on a congressional campaign is a great way to build a relationship with your Member of Congress. Former FMA Chapter 41 President Jack Rice from Curtis Bay Coast Guard Station in Baltimore, MD, summed up the value to FMA of working on congressional campaigns when he said, “Our friends in Congress work all year looking out for our interests. Now is our chance to return the favor.” 

There are many other illustrations of healthy chapter relationships with elected officials that continue to be of tremendous benefit to FMA as a national organization. There is no reason why every FMA chapter cannot maintain such a friendship with its respective lawmakers.

WHAT NOT TO DO

FMA Chapter President Fred Federal Employee calls the local district office of Congressman Smith and tells the receptionist that he would like the Congressman to support H.R. 235. The receptionist is polite, thanks Fred for his call, makes a note of their conversation, and tells him she will relay his concerns to the Congressman. Fred hangs up the phone feeling good and thinking that his work is done. 

The receptionist in Congressman Smith’s office takes the note with Fred’s concerns and types out an e-mail message to the legislative aide in the Congressman’s office in Washington, D.C. The aide, who receives hundreds of e-mails a day, glances at the note for 3 seconds and deletes it. The net result of Fred’s effort – Congressman does not cosponsor H.R. 235. 

HOW TO GET A MEMBER'S ATTENTION

FMA Chapter President Sally Civil Servant calls the legislative (Washington, D.C.) office of Congressman Smith and asks to speak with the legislative assistant (LA), Larry, who handles labor/federal employee issues. Larry tells Sally, “Thanks for bringing this to my attention Sally. I have a couple of questions for you. How much does this proposal cost? How many people would benefit from it? Has the administration taken a position on it?” Sally responds, “Those are all good questions, Larry. I am going to e-mail you a comprehensive issue brief that explains our position and gives you important background information. May I call you sometime next week to follow up with you after you have had a chance to read it?” Larry responds, “Gee, Sally, that would be swell. I’ll look for your e-mail.” Sally then diligently “bird-dogs” Larry until she finds that Larry has read the brief and has discussed the issue with the Member of Congress. Likely result – the Congressman becomes a cosponsor of H.R. 235.

CALLING YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS

A telephone call is the fastest, most direct way you can reach your Members to register your opinion. Calling is easy and can be a critical option when time is of the essence.

  • Make sure that you are calling the right place and speaking with the right person.
  • For legislative issues, call the office in Washington, D.C., and speak with the legislative aide(s) in charge of your issue (usually civil service or federal employee issues).
  • If you are calling about meeting with the Representative or Senator call the appointment schedulers. Some offices have two staff people to handle this function. One schedules D.C. appointments and the other may schedule appointments in the state or district.
  • Be sure to have the information you will be discussing in front of you and review it before calling.
  • Refer to the bill number and the topic of your call.
  • Make your position clear and support your points with facts that can be easily understood.
  • Keep the call concise and to the point – aim for 2 minutes as office receive hundreds of calls a day.
  • Do not be argumentative.
  • Ask for your Representative to take a specific action; for instance, a vote for or against specific legislation, cosponsorship of a bill, or offering an amendment.
  • Ask how the Member of Congress will respond to your request.
  • Thank them for their time!

WRITING ACTION LETTERS

Receiving one letter on the thousands of issues Members of Congress deal with does little to sway the attention or change the mind of a Member or their staff. Two hundred letters on the same issue, however, may force them to take notice. A thousand letters forces them to take action. This is why it is crucial to have your chapter members send in as many action letters as possible. Members of Congress respond to high volumes of letters; a discussion of the mail report is a staple of any weekly staff meeting in a congressional office. You can say you are writing on behalf of the 200 members in your chapter, but it will still only count as one letter to a Member of Congress.

FMA’s Government Affairs Department will write actions letters for our members to send their Congressmen. This website contains the current grassroots action letters that are easy to fill out and can quickly be sent to your elected officials. All letters are editable, and we encourage you to include your personal thoughts. The website can e-mail the letter directly or you can elect to send it through the post. Keep in mind, however, due to security, postal mail is delayed at least by three days.


 

It’s that simple. Start building your chapter’s relationships now! 

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