- Advocacy Resource
Help! My Representatives Are Great. What Now?
Why and how to communicate with your members of Congress
Your work isn't over on Election Day. While your members of Congress might agree with you, are they leaders on issues you care about, or are they sitting on the sidelines? Work with your members of Congress to advance peace and justice.
Should I contact members of Congress from other states or districts?
No, this isn't a helpful strategy. This is one of the most common questions we get, and it seems to make sense. But contacting other members of Congress instead of your own can often do more harm than good.
First, congressional staff are almost always under instructions to ignore any communications that come from outside their district or state, to ensure that they're effectively representing their own constituents. In phone calls and emails, you'll be asked where you're from to ensure that only constituent opinions are counted. Especially since so many congressional phone lines are often busy, you could be crowding out a constituent who needs to get through.
Second, many members of Congress are publicly speculating about out-of-state agitators coming to town halls, making phone calls, and sending letters. When you contact members of Congress who aren't yours, you add fuel to the fire and make it easier for members of Congress to discredit the important opinions of their own constituents.
Why should I contact my members of Congress when they already agree with me?
Do your members agree with you on everything? It's easy to make assumptions, but members of Congress take positions on hundreds of issues. Being in the same party as your member of Congress doesn't substitute for knowing their position on an issue you care about.
Most members of Congress only take the lead on a few key issues — are they focusing on issues that are important to you and your community? You can tell that an issue is a top priority when they introduce legislation, start sign-on letters, or write in the media about their work on the issue. Often, the more members of Congress who champion an issue, the easier it is to change key policies.
How can I get my member of Congress to become a champion on an issue I care about?
This is where the real work comes in. Find a few friends in your area who agree with you, and work together. Most members of Congress are responsive to their constituents; it’s about building enough momentum that the members of Congress have to pay attention.
Build momentum in your community
Members of Congress appreciate constituent support — it can make them stronger leaders on an issue — and they can always do more around the issue you care about.
- Speak out in the media: When your member of Congress takes a positive step, write a letter to the editor praising their position. This isn’t just a way to share your opinion with your community; when members of Congress are mentioned by name in local newspapers, they pay attention.
- Tell your story: What leads you to care about this issue? Sharing a personal experience or a perspective from your faith can help motivate your member of Congress to make the issue a priority.
- Demonstrate community support: Share action alerts (like FCNL’s) on social media. Encourage friends, neighbors, and members of your meeting to sign up for FCNL’s action alerts. Starting an FCNL Advocacy Team is a great way to build a network of activists in your area.
Ask for leadership
Schedule a meeting with your member of Congress or their staff working on the issue. A small group of four to six people may increase the likelihood of meeting directly with the member of Congress.
Bring with you letters to the editor, effects their leadership would have on your community, and other community support you know about. Tell your story of why the issue matters to you. Then make your ask. Here are some ideas that could help move your member of Congress towards leadership:
- Make a public statement in support of the issue.
- Engage with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move the issue forward.
- Ask the member of Congress to draft an op-ed, or to sign on to an op-ed that you write.
FCNL Advocacy Teams foster congressional champions for peace and justice. Find or start an Advocacy Team near you to get personalized training, advice from our expert staff, and access to a community of advocates working across the country for change.
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