Writing to a Member of Congress

One of the best ways to communicate with your Member of Congress is through a well-reasoned personal letter. Taking the time to write a letter shows sincerity and thoughtfulness. Typically, legislators respond best to their own constituents, if you are not in their district or state your letter may not make it past an intern's desk. Here are some guidelines for effective communication.

Timing is important. A letter sent after Congress acts is a missed opportunity, while correspondence sent months before an issue is considered is likely to be forgotten. Be aware of the federal budget process (check the Timeline of the federal budget process). Basically, once Congress agrees upon a final Budget Resolution, the next step is to determine funding allocations for the 13 appropriations subcommittees in each chamber. After receiving their allocations, subcommittee chairs begin drafting the legislation that will fund the agencies and programs under their jurisdiction. This usually happens in June-July and that is THE TIME to contact appropriators regarding concerns over funding for particular programs.

Limit your letter to one page and one subject. Avoid scientific jargon.

In the first paragraph, explain your reason for writing. Briefly note your "credentials," and include other pertinent information. Cite a specific bill when possible. For the agency or program you are interested in, refer to the relevant bill by its proper title.

In the second paragraph, describe the importance of the issue. Cite relevant facts and avoid emotionalism. Frame your discussion from a national, rather than a personal, perspective.

In the last paragraph, request (not demand) a specific action. Thank the Member for his/her consideration of your views. Offer assistance.

Check that your letter is legible, and includes your name, address, and telephone number.

Fax or email. Currently, we recommend faxing your letter to your Member. Also, most Members are now set up to receive email from their constituents through their websites (remember to include your address, as e-mail from non-constituents is typically discarded).  It is recommended that you do not send your letter through the U.S. mail. All U.S. mail to Congressional offices is currently delayed for security purposes.

The correct address style for your correspondence is:

The Honorable __________
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator __________:

The Honorable __________
United States House of Representatives;
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative __________:

Tips for visiting your Members of Congress.

American Mathematical Society