Get Involved: Grassroots Information
Types of Grassroots Contacts and Their Effectiveness
While we continually encourage activists to take actions which keep elected officials accountable to you, the constituent, we may not have clearly explained which actions are most effective in relation to others. Here are the actions you need to take, ranked from the "most effective" on down. Remember though, ANY action is better than none at all.
Make a Personal Visit With Your Elected Official
Although travelling to DC requires more effort, it pays off with the greatest reward. Visit your Representative or Senator at their DC office. It is taken into consideration by your Congressperson and his or her staff that youve made the trip to DC.
CAUTION: Dont be disappointed if you travel to DC and do not talk to your Representative or Senator, but rather to a Legislative Aide (LA). These people have the ear of the official. Their job is to listen to the public and brief the official daily regarding these personal visits. YOU MUST CALL AHEAD OF TIME AND MAKE AN APPOINTMENT! The offices are busy.
It is important when meeting with anyone in your Congresspersons office to be courteous, sincere, and firm on your stance supporting Americas Redrock Wilderness Act. This is not the forum to vent frustration. Just enter into a casual conversation about wilderness and ask (or thank) your Congressperson to co-sponsor Americas Redrock Wilderness Act. Professional attire is appropriate.
We also recommend that you visit your elected officials local office in your area. Because you are visiting a local office it will take longer for the information to reach your Representative.
Write a Personal Letter
Writing a personal letter to a Congressperson is very effective. It takes time, deep thought, and is read by someone on staff. Letters can take several forms; the most effective one is handwritten on your personal letterhead. Talk a little about yourself, your profession, and why you support Utah wilderness. Write your own thoughts, dont merely copy someone elses letter of talking points from a flier. Form letters are given very little credibility; anyone can generate volumes of copied, repetitive letters.
Points to make in your letter:
- Ask for their co-sponsorship of Americas Redrock Wilderness Act.
- Give an example of an experience youve had in Utah and why its important to you.
- Ask for her/his stance on Americas Redrock Wilderness Act.
The idea is to establish a rapport, a line of communication, so you can hold your Representative/Senators accountable to you.
Speak Out at a Town Meeting
Town meetings are usually held in your area when Congress is out of session or on break. The great part about town meetings is the Congressperson is present, running the meeting, in a kind of "folksy" setting. It is a tremendous opportunity for you to publicly ask for their co-sponsorship of Americas Redrock Wilderness Act. Explain briefly how Utahs politicians are ignoring the demands of Utah citizens who favor larger wilderness designations. Mention how these are public lands, belonging to all Americans, not to the local governments of even the state of Utah, and certainly not to the developers who want to make a buck on the back of pristine public lands which WE ALL own and pay for.
Realize they will listen to you, and perhaps even answer your concerns. They dont want an argument, especially in a public setting like this. These are "feel good" type meetings that the press often cover. Be polite, firm, and sincere. Tell them youll follow up with a personal visit, a letter or a phone call. Let them know youre watching.
Call Washington DC
Once again, though not as effective as the above, a phone call is effective because you are present on the line. This allows your passion to be heard, instantaneously, by the staffer who will talk with the Congressperson. While on the line you have the chance to mention important details about you and why youre taking your stance. Congresspersons are briefed regularly by their staff about what types of calls the office is receiving. They are particularly interested in the opinions of you, the voter.
You can also make a phone call to the local office in your area. This tends to be less effective because the local office has to transfer these calls to DC. A call to Washington, DC is quicker, a little more costly, and definitely more timely. Calling is usually done when immediate action is required, say the day before or the day of an important vote.
Send a Fax
Although not as effective as an original letter, a facsimile gets the job done. Faxes are regarded as you, the constituent, putting less time and energy into your letter. While still getting your point across, if youre writing a personal letter, take the extra step and send it via US mail. Make yours different and more personal. When in a time crunch though, a fax works great.
Postcards and Petitions
Blank postcards with a handwritten message are more effective than mass amounts of pre-printed postcards with only a name or signature. Petitions are effective for a signature. Petitions are effective for a one-time press hit and for submitting as comment on legislation. Neither however, are as effective as the other means of communication mentioned above.
Although not exactly useless, e-mail messages are not regarded highly. Less personal and less time consuming, they dont hold the same weight as other action items. Email is more effective in a time crunch, but if you have the time to write out original thoughts, then print it and put a stamp on it, that will also work. Itll get there in a couple of days and costs 33 cents. Anybody with good knowledge of email can make a Congresspersons computer full of messages. They are just as easily deleted.