Sending personalized messages online about the issues that are critical to your science is an effective method for communicating with Congress. Additionally, calling the office of your member of congress is another useful outreach effort. Here are some practical tips to get you started.
Contacting Congress Online
Every member of Congress maintains a website with an easy-to-use contact page. The contact pages vary a bit from member to member, but the overall process is the same. To access your legislators form, use the quick links on the right hand side. Simply fill in the blanks with your contact information, choose your general topic from a drop-down menu (e.g., “Agriculture”), enter a subject line, type your personalized message, and hit “Send.”
The Subject Line: Be specific in your subject line. If you are writing about funding for a particular program, be sure and include the term “appropriations” and the name of the program in the subject line. If you are writing about a specific piece of legislation, include the appropriate identifiers such as the bill name or bill number as follows:
- House Bills: “H. R. _____”
- House Resolutions: “H. RES. _____”
- House Joint Resolutions: “H. J. RES. _____”
- Senate Bills: “S. _____”
- Senate Resolutions: “S. RES. ______”
- Senate Joint Resolutions: “S. J. RES. ______”
The Message: Keep it simple. Stick to a single topic or issue. A short (3-paragraph) message is best. Follow the example below, but make it personal!
- Address the recipient as follows. “Dear Senator ____________________:” or "Dear Representative _____________________:”
- Paragraph 1: Say why you are writing and who you are.
- Paragraph 2: Provide more detail. Be factual (not emotional). Provide specific information about how the topic affects you and others in your state/neighborhood/country. Give examples, if possible.
- Paragraph 3: Close by requesting action (a vote for or against a bill, amendment, legislative proposal, or a change in general policy; or a specific action to support a program such as contacting a committee chair).
- Thank the member for taking the time to read your letter.
The Response: You will likely receive a response from the member. The response may contain personalized wording but will probably contain form letter text. Don’t be discouraged. Be persistent. Your emails will be read!
To reach members of congress via phone:
- Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask to be connected to your senator's and/or representative's office. You can also find direct dial numbers online using the links provided on the right.
- You will also want to state reasons for your support or opposition to the bill.
- Send a thank you note to the staff member with whom you spoke after the call restating your position and thanking him/her for ensuring that your member of congress takes your views into consideration on the issue.
Contacting Agriculture and Appropriations Staffers Directly
Each member of congress has staff members dedicated to agriculture and appropriations issues. In addition to utilizing the online contact forms described above, it can be quite effective to directly contact staffers who are involved in handling matters related to agricultural research.
Contact Your SenatorsContact Your House Representatives