Effective advocacy depends on getting the message across to elected officials. It consists of two main elements: the content of the message and the delivery.
Content of the Message
The message is neither social justice nor common good, concepts that are too vague and won’t tell the elected officials what we want them to do. More
Delivering the Message
Contacting your Council member or the Mayor on behalf of yourself or your congregation can take place by phone, email, letter or by a visit. A message is made more compelling through an example, a story, supporting facts or personal experiences. However, the message must remain focused and brief to be effective. It must also tell the Council member or the Mayor what you want him or her to do.
Phone and email
If you contact the Council member or the Mayor by phone, more than likely you will speak to a staff person. If the contact is by email, a staff person will be the primary reader. Generally there is no need to speak personally to the elected official. A staff person is a good contact for this level of communication. Staff aggregate information for the official’s review. Identify yourself and your affiliation. If you or your congregation is a constituent, make that clear. Don’t overload your call or email with too many issues. Make your position on the issue(s) clear and ask that the elected official be told of your call or email and your position. Ask him/her to consider supporting this position. Do not insist on a call back or an email response.
Mass call-in or email: If you are calling as a part of a mass call-in or email, make your message short and to the point. Include the issue and your position in the subject line of an email or in the opening message of a phone call: Vote for Bill xxx. The effectiveness of such calls and emails is the number of messages received, rather than the fine points of a message. Staff generally are only counting messages to determine the level of support/concern on an issue, particularly in their Ward. Individual emails are seldom responded to with anything other than an acknowledgement that they have been received. Mass communication to elected officials needs to be used at strategic points in the budget process or in consideration of policy. If overdone, it becomes annoying and thus ignored!
Carefully crafted letters from individuals with more detailed information supporting a position are much less common in this era of mass communication. Congregations may find letters effective if they are contacting their Council member about an issue specifically important to the congregation. A congregation with a specific issue may want to follow its letter with a scheduled visit to its Council member.
Letters to the Editor
When published, Letters to the Editor, strategically timed, can alert a wide audience to specific issues before the Council or the Mayor and hopefully can broaden support from the larger community. The Good Faith Leadership will work to identify community and congregation leaders who would be willing to create and send a letter on behalf of Good Faith priorities or positions.
Visits to the Mayor, Department Heads, Council members
Good Faith Leadership plans timely visits to the Mayor, appropriate department heads and individual Council members before and during the budget process. The visits will be announced ahead of time in the EVENTS section of this website and through email alerts. Good Faith partners are encouraged to participate in these visits, particularly those to Council members who represent the ward in which the congregation is located.
Look for friends everywhere and remember today’s opponent may be tomorrow’s ally. In politics, a friend is someone willing to work with you on an issue regardless of formal affiliation or viewpoint. The person may disagree with you on every other issue, but is committed to your specific cause. Always conclude communications on a positive note. Keep the door open to future dialogue. In spending time with elected or appointed officials (in person or by message), even if their position differs from yours, you may be able to lessen the intensity of their opposition and even perhaps change their view of an issue.