Contacting Policy Makers

How to write an advocacy letter:

1. Remember that an advocacy letter is also a business letter. Address it correctly both in the letter and on the envelope. State elected officials should be addressed as “The Honorable” in the inside address block, and then by their title in the greeting (i.e., The Honorable George Jones, Dear Senator Jones). During the legislative session mail or e-mail letters to their legislative office address. Outside the sessin, send letters or e-mails to their home addresses.

2.  In your first few lines, get to the point. Within the first paragraph, tell them what you want (“Vote for SB 100” or “Kansas needs more funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs) and why (“because it will save lives” or “it will improve health”).

3.  Tell your story. Your position will be much more effective  if you can provide a personal story (“I know the ravages of tobacco use because. . .”).  Sometimes a mere recitation of facts does not make an impression, but a story of a real situation can touch the heart and the minds of those who hear it.  Facts are important, but it is the stories that legislators may remember.

4.  Don’t get sidetracked. Make sure that you have your main points in mind and don’t bring in other topics or alternatives. You may be able to write a follow up letter, but don’t do that too frequently. Policymakers may disregard correspondence that is frequent and repetitive, especially from someone they don’t know and particularly if it from someone that is not in their legislative district.

5.  Keep it short. If possible, no more than a single page. But avoid using tiny type or narrow margins to crowd things in.  Having a clearly understood, easy-to-read letter has a better chance of being reviewed.

6.  Always Include your name and contact information. This should include address and telephone number and maybe your email address in case the policy maker wishes to respond or ask for additional information.  Your home address can establish you as a constituent who may actually be someone who will vote for the policy maker in the next election. 

 You can locate the name of your legislators by connecting with the interactive map at the KU Institute of Policy and Social Research.  If you know the name of your legislators but not the contact information, click on Kansas Legislature’s House  Members link or the Senate Members link for phone, email and address. 

How to make a phone call:

Phone calls to legislators can be effective communication tools. Legislators are away from their offices most of the day during the session, so they can be hard to reach in person. Follow the guidelines for writing a letter but keep messages short, simple, and specific, leaving your name and contact information number. Indicate whether you are speaking for yourself or as part of a group, and make sure that the policy maker will understand if you are a constituent from their district. The same information can be left as a message with the legislator’s office assistant.

You can locate the name of your legislators by connecting with the interactive map at the KU Institute of Policy and Social Research. If you know the name of your legislators but not the contact information for them click on  the Kansas Legislature’s House Members link or the Senate Members link for phone, email and address.

Find your legislator & plan a visit

If you do not know who your representatives are in the Kansas House and Senate, the University of Kansas Institute for Policy and Social Research has a search function. You may search through an interactive map or by typing in your address.

If you already know your legislator but not the contact information,  you can get your legislator’s phone, email and home and Capitol address through the following links:

For House members, click here.
For Senate members, click here.

Meeting with policymakers either at their office or other location can provide an opportunity to interact directly on issues important to you.

1.  Call and ask for a time, date and place for your visit, and indicate your area of concern.  Make sure you indicate if you are a constiuent of the policymaker.

2.  Be prepared ahead of time with your position (or your “message”) clearly articulated.  Make sure you  know exactly what action you want your policymaker to take.

3.  When you meet, identify yourself (and your groups. partners or coalitions) so that the policymaker will know that you are coming in as a representative of many like-minded individuals and/or organizations. Have your story ready and your main facts or data ready for explaining.  Avoid other topics that are disguised as friendly conversation.  Keep your discussion focused on your topic and present it clearly but in a timely fashion.

4.  Answer any questions, leave any fact sheets you have, and indicate you will provide additional information you have been asked to supply.

5.  Do not forget to “make the ask”–“can we count on you to help us achieve this policy or make this change?”

6.  No matter what the reaction, do not get angry or argue about the topic–you may need to have a later visit or come back with another issue at a later date.

7.  Ask when you may check back to either provide additional information or to check to see if the policymaker has made a decision on supporting your proposal.

8.  Don’t overstay your time.  Thank the policymaker for visiting with you, no matter what the response has been.

9.  Keep careful notes of the conversation, possible support, opposition points made or additional information needed to share with other partners in your advocacy group.

You can locate the name of your legislators by connecting with the interactive map at the KU Institute of Policy and Social Research. If you know the name of your legislators but not the contact information, click on Kansas Legislature’s House Members link or the Senate Members link for phone, email and address.