Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sending Letters to Local Politicians

A few years ago I signed up for the Action Network. Through this service, environmental organizations like NJ Audubon and the Sierra Club can send alerts to interested parties about key issues and upcoming legislation. Through a simple form and the click of a button, I can send form letters to key officials/representatives who have influence with the issue at hand. I have the ability to customize the letter or write all of my own text. It's an excellent facilitation tool. On the other hand, I wonder how many people just click the "Send" button and send the form letter. I also wonder what the representatives who receive these form letters think. For example, say that 2000 people send letters, but only 50 of them customize the letter. It tells the representative that 2000 people care about the issue, which is great. But, do you think that 2000 custom letters would have more of an impact? Are the reps "on to us" regarding the use of this system and perhaps we've lost a little clout by using the form letters? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


slybird said...

That's exactly the reason I never participate in form letter campaigns. On the other hand, I've never been sufficiently motivated to contact my representatives over an issue, but when at some point I do, it will be a letter of my own crafting. I don't doubt that one of their staffers just recycle/deletes those piles of letters.

~ Nick

noflickster said...

I hope a politician or two (or their interns) on the receiving end chimes in here.

I suspect 2,000 computer-generated "letters," customized or not, equals 2,000 signatures on a petition. But 2,000 letters NOT sent from the same auto-generated web page or 2,000 personal phone calls would count for more.

Great question, I look forward to following the comments to see what people think (or hopefully, know).

kayleen said...

About 15 or so years ago I worked next door to a Senators office. Next to the phone they had a "ticky sheet". After a call, they would mark the sheet 1 call for, or against the issue. They separated the letters the same way. The numbers were forwarded to the D.C. office. The letters were responded to by a generic letter thanking the writer for their interest. Intense interest in a subject may change a vote, or not.

Doesn't stop me from writing or calling. We elect them, they need to hear from us.

One thing to consider...email or faxing is better as all letters are now hung up due to anthrax screening.

Patrick Belardo said...

Mike, Nick, that's my concern as well.

Kayleen, thanks for the real life insights. I actually emailed the Action Network to ask them what the letterhead looks like that they send. I was wondering if there's a way they can tell if it comes from the action network. The email/fax tip is great!

Beth said...

I don't like form letters. Write your own letter or just sign a petition.