As an issue advocate you will need to develop particular skills. These skills can help you acquire timely and accurate information, find sponsors, encourage fund-raising activities, recruit volunteers and new members, raise awareness of an issue, urge letter writing campaigns, etc. Letter writing exercises can help you develop an impressive style and instill confidence in your ability to communicate and persuade (e.g. by creating effective opening and closing sentences).




Citizens who care about an issue are often encouraged by lobbies & NGO’s to send letters to members of Congress in Washington, or in their district offices. Advocates who mobilize supporters stimulate different kinds of communication, such as letters, faxes, email, phone calls, postcards, etc.

Advocates target different groups (different races, professions, ages, ethnic communities, etc.) to articulate their concerns in different ways. Some tactics and techniques, however, have been criticized for giving the impression that more people are concerned than are in reality. Grassroots mobilizers can use inflated figures to show public support for an issue, especially by means of the use of computer software programs (click here to read about "astroturf" campaigning).




Individuals and organizations often monitor developments related to impending legislation. They decide whether they are for or against the legislation. The reasons why they support, or oppose it, are usually conveyed to their representatives. There are many different ways that members of the public convey their views (i.e. phone calls, protest letters, and demonstrations). One form of communication which is usually effective is known as a "Letter Writing Campaign," which can be launched by a citizen lobbyist, even if he or she is not a member of an NGO.

Furthermore, a citizen lobbyist is often an individual who sets up a meeting with his or her representative (ex: in the US Congress, or perhaps with policymakers in Brussels), and makes a case in a brief amount of time. This is known as face-to-face lobbying. "Citizen lobbyists" must learn how to be good debaters and how to communicate their thoughts effectively and simply. In addition, they must be well organized, develop a clear vision, and have a passionate commitment. It is also important to be quick at evaluating situations and adopting appropriate responses.


In most cases in the U.S., citizen lobbyists write to their representatives for 2 purposes:
(1) to influence a representative to vote in a certain way on an issue that is currently being considered before the legislator, or
(2) to request that some member of the representative’s staff perform a specific service, such as providing information or helping solve a problem encountered with a government agency.

Such letters to representatives give citizens a sense of empowerment and participation in the democratic process.


Letters to representatives are most likely to be influential when they are persuasively written and when they represent the view of a constituent. In most cases, the constituent addresses a letter to his or her senator or Congressman.

As students, professionals, academicians, etc, letters can be written on behalf of yourself, as an individual advocate of a position, or as a group of "citizen lobbyists." Many issue advocates and lobbyists from around the world also write to influential institutions and decision-makers across the globe whether or not the individuals are citizens of the country to where the letter is addressed.



Letters that influence the votes of legislators often have several characteristics.


Address your letter properly (use proper forms of address).

In your letter you may provide at least a few facts and examples, or anecdotes. However, be brief and concise since representatives are busy and already have a great deal of information to deal with. Include any personal experience or involvement that you have in the issue or problem. You do not need to provide all the information that a legislator needs to make for an informed decision, but provide enough to get him or her interested in the issue so that it will be examined further and given serious thought. Format the letter as you would a standard business letter and proof read your final draft carefully.

Begin your letter by telling the representative exactly what you would like him or her to do (and which, if any, piece of legislation is affected). Good letters clearly identify a single action that the writer wants the representative to take, stating and justifying the need for the requested action. Good letters that concern a bill before Congress provide a brief summary of what the bill does. Because the U.S. Congress considers hundreds of bill’s each year which may appear simultaneously to address the same issue, be sure to include the following information:


Name of the bill (e.g., Environmental Justice Act of 2006)

Subtitle of bill (e.g., “an act to require federal agencies to develop and implement policies and practices that promote environmental justice…”)

Bill’s number (e.g. H.R. 1112)

Current status of the bill (e.g. referred to the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law).


You should also address two of the legislator’s primary concerns.


For every bill that comes to the representative’s attention, he or she must answer two questions:

(1)  “Is legislative action needed to deal with whatever problem or issue is at hand?”

(2)  “If legislation is needed, is the specific legislation in question the best way to address the issue?”


To answer these 2 questions you will need to make the following 2 arguments:

(1)  That the issue or problem warrants (or does not warrant) legislative action, and

(2)  That the specific proposed legislation appropriately deals (or does not appropriately deal) with the issue or problem.



Example Letter addressed to a U.S. Senator


The Honorable [First name & Surname]

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510


Dear Senator [Surname]:

Dear Mr. Senator:
Dear Madam Senator:


On behalf of…an organization (group of)… which represents…, we are writing to ask your support for… No doubt you are concerned with… We feel that it is essential to… for the interests of the American people (add other reasons) and the public interest (or specify other interests).

[Body of letter]


We appreciate your concern on these matters and value your support.



[Names of members of a lobby, NGO, institution, organization, group of volunteers, etc. You may add city, or other information]


* * * * *

Example Letter address to a U.S. Representative

The Honorable [First name & Surname]

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515


Dear Congressman [Surname]:

Dear Congresswoman [Surname]:

Dear Representative [Surname]:

Dear Mr. [Surname]:

Dear Ms. [Surname]:


On behalf of … I am writing to ask you to reconsider your position on… We here in … are aware of your position on this essential matter. Your added attention will be a critical element of … [the decision-making process, foreign policy outlook, impacting public opinion, future relations between the Turkish and the American people, enhancing security, international relations, regional policies, mutual understanding, etc]

[Body of letter]


We appreciate your concern on these matters and value your support.



[Names of members of a lobby, NGO, institution, organization, group of volunteers, etc. You may add city, or other information]





To help you better understand supporting and opposing arguments concerning an issue (before you write to a decision-maker) you can monitor developments in the U.S. Congress, and obtain information related to impending legislation.


To find records of speeches that have been made in Congress for and against measures you can visit the Thomas Congressional Record search engine and enter the name of a bill (created by the Library of Congress, this web site http://thomas.loc.gov enables you to search for legislation currently being considered by Congress).


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