2 Carrots and 1 Stick That Routinely Keep You in a Congressional Staffer’s Head

by Joshua Habursky // Sep 18, 2015 In-person

Leadership Carrot

Members of Congress receive millions of letters and emails each year, mostly about policy issues or position statements on behalf of groups and individuals.

An effective advocacy organization will correspond with congressional members and staff on a routine basis about legislation affecting their issue areas, but also will remain in steady contact, regardless of whether an immediate issue exists.

Advocacy organizations should maintain a routine protocol for simply placing their name, organizational mission and staff contact information in front of congressional staff.

Of course, some of the emails may be deleted and letters thrown out without examination, but advocacy organizations can creatively make a non-policy letter into an informational brief on their organization.

These letters can open doors and lead to cooperation that affects policy-making in the future.

Birthday Letters

Send members of Congress a birthday letter. Wish them well on their birthdays, but also take the time to state that your organization is an authority on its select subject matter and encourage them to consider your organization as a valuable resource.

Include contact information for appropriate staff in your government relations department and have the head of the government relations department hand-sign each letter.

Adding a graphic related to your organization can also increase the effectiveness of your birthday greeting.

Constituent Recognition Letters

Members of Congress send greetings and letters acknowledging the accomplishments of their constituents. Your advocacy organization can aide congressional staff as they acknowledge their constituents by writing letters citing examples of their constituent’s accomplishments related to your issue area.

For instance, at the American Motorcyclist Association, we send letters to federal and state elected officials that call attention to their constituents who receive awards related to motorcycling, are featured in the monthly American Motorcyclist — the official journal of the AMA — or significantly contribute to the motorcycling lifestyle.

The congressional member may even follow up with the constituents, congratulating them for their accomplishments.

‘Thank You’ Letters

If your organization supports legislation that passes, or opposes legislation that fails, it is critical that you send a letter to members of Congress praising their vote and encouraging them to support your position in the future.

This “thank you” letter shows that your organization is closely following the legislative process and that you can be an ally in the future to sway public opinion around their vote.

“Thank you” letters can be written by your organization, but getting the grassroots network to write letters on your organization’s behalf can recharge your base, demonstrate legislative success to your advocates and reveal to the members of Congress that they have constituents closely monitoring the issue.

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All too often, advocacy organizations highlight the negative; but by accentuating the positive you can achieve your strategic goals.

Grassroots advocacy is about the proper balance of carrots and sticks, and these letters help maintain that balance.

Joshua Habursky is the Grassroots Manager at the American Motorcyclist Association.

 

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