The Current

Advocacy News + Updates

The game has changed. The landscape of influencing Congress is evolving and as advocates with a message that impacts millions lives around the world, we must adapt our tactics to make sure we’re heard.

Here’s what we know:

With midterm elections in the United States just days away, our great American experiment is in full swing. We are engaging in the democratic process and making our voices heard as voters. But as IJM advocates, we know this kind of voice-raising doesn’t have to be limited to showing up at the ballot box on a Tuesday in November.

When the dust has settled and officials have been elected, we can communicate with them (and their offices) about the issues that we are passionate about – the issues we want to see Congress act on, like the fight to end violence against the poor.

But we aren’t the only advocates with an important ask for our Members of Congress.  According to the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), Congressional offices have seen significant increases in constituent communications in recent years. From 2000 to 2010, constituent messages to Congress increased by 2,000 percent.

The office of Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania received about 1,000 emails from constituents on the topic of education during 2016, according to CMF. During the confirmation process for a new Secretary of Education in 2017, the office received 45,000 emails in a single month (January 2017). Another CMF case study of a House of Representatives office representing a suburb of Washington, D.C. shows this drastic shift that has taken place in the last two decades. In 2001, this House office received 9,300 emails from constituents. Ten years later in 2011, the office received 48,000 messages from citizens. So far in 2018, the same office has received 123,000 emails.

With more Americans sending messages to Washington than ever before, we must adapt to get make our views heard.

Here are our 3 tips to make your voice heard:

  1. Use your story and your own words as often as possible.

Don’t rely solely on a form or templated email. For any of our advocacy efforts, IJM will provide you sample language to use when emailing your Member, but you can increase your impact immeasurably by personalizing this and incorporating your voice

Pro tip: Talk about an IJM client by name that has stuck with you, your experience at Liberate gathering with thousands of others passionate about ending slavery, or visiting with field office staff on the frontlines. According to CMF, some Congressional offices have software that can measure how much of a constituent email is personalized. Even a few sentences of your own words can make sure your message is more effective.

  1. Keep it concise.

Congressional staff are sorting through thousands of constituent communications each month.  So share a personal note to let them know that you’re a real person behind the email, but also try to get your message across in about 300 words.

  1. Don't stop with an email.

The rising use of social media by elected leaders has opened up a new avenue of constituent outreach – most notably, Twitter and Facebook. In a 2014 CMF survey of Congressional staff, about one-third (35%) of the staff surveyed said as few as 10 similar comments on social media directed to their office will garner attention and nearly half (45%) said their offices will pay attention to between 10 and 30 comments on an issue. The effectiveness of these messages lies in the timing and grouping of the tweets or posts. Your best bet is to rally some friends to tweet or post on the same day as one another. So share some sample tweets with your crew, visit our list of the Twitter handles of every Member of Congress and get tweeting!

It can be a leap of faith to make your position on any issue known to your elected officials. IJM is here to walk with you in the journey of advocacy – and to help you make your efforts more effective and impactful in this important fight against slavery and violence.

If you ever have questions about using email or social media to reach Congress or want to learn how to join our work, email us at [email protected].

Happy emailing!

- Nate

Over the last decade alone, Congress saw an increase of 2,000 percent in messages from citizens.