• Nikki James Zellner

How to send a letter to your elected officials [resource template]

One of the most frequently asked questions I get here at CO Safe Schools, particularly after a carbon monoxide incident on campus (daycare, K-12, or college campus) is this: I want to send a letter to my elected officials about this. How do I do that?


First – I commend you for taking up that line of thinking. It's really important to voice your opinions to local, state and national officials about the topics that are important to you. Elected officials are supposed to be making decisions not on what's best for them, but what's best for their community and constituents – so good on ya!


Second – Many of you want a ready to go template. But I encourage you to inject a personal story into it (when and where you can) to make a bigger impact than a standard copy/paste.


Third – when the topic you want to discuss is in the news, it's a great time to let your elected officials know how you feel.


With the Happy Smiles Learning Center (Allentown, PA) incident occurring on October 11, 2022, it's a good time to reach out while the topic is top of mind on national news (that cycle ends quickly).


Fourth – if there is currently active legislation awaiting votes in your state or locality – know the people who will be voting on it (committee, council, etc.), reference the legislation in your note, and send it to those who will be casting the YAY or NAY votes. Odds are a legislative staffer (aide, assistant, etc) will be the one reading your email – not the elected official. It's his/her/their job to communicate how many constituents are bringing up a topic, and whether those constituents are for or against.


Fifth – Spell check, make sure all your links work, etc. if you're trying to make a point.



Below are examples of the emails I sent to my elected officials while advocating for HB1823 (2021) in Virginia – a bill requiring the installation of carbon monoxide detection at all schools and daycares in the Commonwealth.



Example 1: My initial outreach email immediately after our CO poisoning event



Example 2: Sent to all members of the Virginia Senate committee that HB-1823 was awaiting votes


If you're looking for a basic template, may I recommend this:


Distinguished ____________,


I'm writing in regards to {topic or specific piece of legislation up for vote}.


I hope that you will vote {yay or nay} on this piece of legislation.


One or two sentences here that discuss why this is important to you {personal experience or relationship to legislation if any}


{Insert link(s) to local, national press or subject matter expertise showing that this topic matters and is relevant}


{Thank them for their time and their public service here.}


Closing of choice,


Name

Address

Phone #


(note: they want to know that you're a constituent in their district, state, etc – otherwise they will likely toss your opinion – so be sure to include name, full address and phone)




Hope this is helpful for all the people ready to move from #Slacktivism to #advocacy.


- Nikki


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