Writing Your Legislator

Surprisingly few people ever write their elected officials. But for members of Congress, mail is an important connection to the opinions of their constituents. Writing your senators and representatives is one of the easiest and most effective ways to influence public policy on behalf of any range of issues. Before you write a letter, consider the following suggestions.

1. Identify the bill or issue first. Your purpose for writing should be contained in the first paragraph. About 20,000 bills on innumerable issues are introduced each year in Congress, so it is important to be specific about a bill number if you can. Bills are numbered sequentially as they are introduced, preceded by H.R.____ in the House and S.____ in the Senate.

2. Identify yourself and who you represent. Whether you are a single concerned constituent or you represent an entire network of citizens and professionals, the effort you are making on behalf of parks and recreation send an important signal; if you take the time to write, you probably take the time to vote.

3. Be reasonably brief. Keep your letter concise and to the point. As a rule of thumb, stick to one issue per letter, and try to keep the letter to one page.

4. Include anecdotal or local information. Let your legislator know how the issue may affect you and your community. Include specific examples or success stories where appropriate.

5. Politely ask for a specific action. Tell your representative that you want them to take some specific action, such as cosponsoring a bill, supporting an amendment, or making a floor statement about a particular issue. Be courteous, don't sound demanding or threatening. Thank your representative for any past help or support. Don't hesitate to ask questions.

6. The letter should be timely. If you are responding to an alert sent by NRPA, it usually means that action on the issue is imminent. Feel free to call NRPA Public Policy at (202) 887-0290 for additional information.

7. Be political. You are the constituent, whether it's where you work or where you live. Stress your connection to the legislators district or state. If you are a personal friend or professional acquaintance, refer to it in the letter. This increases the likelihood that the letter will get into the hands of the legislator.

8. Address the letter as follows:

The Honorable________________________
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative ________________________:

The Honorable________________________
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator ______________________________:

Note: Address the chair of a committee as Mr. Chairman or Madam Chairwomen; address the Speaker of the House as Mr. Speaker.

9. Tell NRPA what you learn. You are an important source of information for NRPA. Let us know how your legislators feel about the issue and respond to your concerns or suggestions