It is important to be an effective advocate. There are simple protocols that you should always follow when communicating with members of Congress or their offices. Below you will find simple tips to employ when performing the most used methods of grassroots advocacy.
Telephoning Your Elected Officials
You can contact your legislators in their district or Washington, DC offices. In Washington, you can contact their offices directly. Their contact information is located in the Legislative Action Center or you can contact the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for the office of your Senators or Representative.
Telephone calls are taken by staff members. When connected, you should ask to speak with the legislative aide who handles the issue in which you would like to comment.
When you identify yourself, always mention that you are a member of the American Massage Therapy Association. After identifying yourself, tell the aide you would like to leave a brief message telling Senator/Representative (name) that you support/oppose (S.___/H.R.___)."
You should also state reasons for your support or opposition to the bill. AMTA will typically provide you with a sample script or talking points for phone calls. At the end of the call, always ask for your legislator’s position on the bill.
Writing a letter to members of Congress is still the most utilized way to communicate your position on a piece of legislation. The best way to send a letter is electronically. Generally, AMTA will provide you with a pre-written letter to use however, if you are interested in drafting your own letter, please keep the following tips in mind:
- Short letters are best, no longer than one page. Your purpose for writing the legislator should be stated in the first paragraph of the letter.
- Address only one issue in a letter.
- If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, identify it accordingly. House bills are identified as H.R.____, and Senate bills are identified as S.____.
- Be courteous, to the point, and include key information, using examples to support your position.
- Tell your legislator how the legislation would impact you and other constituents in his/her district.
- Make sure your facts are accurate.
- Ask your legislator for his/her position on the issue.
Addressing Correspondence to Elected Officials
To your Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
__(Rm.#)__(name of)Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator (last name)
To a Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
__ (Rm. #) __ (name of) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative (last name)
Meeting with a Legislative Office
One of the most effective ways to influence the policy making process is by scheduling a face-to-face meeting with your legislator or a staff person in his/her office.
Don’t be discouraged if you are scheduled to meet with a staff person. Building a relationship with staff who handles the issue you are addressing can be just as effective as meeting with a legislator.
There are several thing that you should do before, during and after a meeting to ensure that it is a success:
Scheduling a Meeting
- Draft a written request to meet with your legislator. This request should be sent to the scheduler by email or fax.
- In the letter identify which office location you would like to schedule a meeting.
- A couple of days after you send the request, place a follow-up call to the scheduler.
- Once the meeting has been scheduled, confirm your meeting with a letter or phone call to the scheduler or the legislative aide with whom you will be meeting.
Before the Meeting
- Review background materials and talking points provided to you by AMTA.
- Prepare to discuss no more than two issues.
- Be prepared to share examples on how the issue impacts your practice or patient care.
At The Meeting
- Arrive on time.
- Your time with the legislator or legislative aide might be cut short, so be flexible. Practice delivering your message in five minutes or less.
- Be prepared to answer questions; however, if you don’t know the answer, let them know that you or AMTA will follow-up with the information they requested.
- Provide materials to support your position.
- Offer to be a resource on massage therapy issues to the policymaker and his/her staff.
- Follow-up with a thank you.