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Tips on Hosting a Letter-Writing Table
By providing materials and a sample letter, one person can help influence many others to speak out on a current issue or piece of legislation. Even a few letters can have a big impact.
Officials assume that a single letter represents the views of several people; many letters represent the views of lots of people. Officials rarely have time to read letters. Letters generally are opened by staff, who keep running tallies of incoming letters and pass on mail counts to the official. A few sample letters may be selected for the official to see as a means of keeping a pulse on his or her constituency. Thought-provoking and informational letters can educate the staff who read them and thus influence the official indirectly.
- Decide whether you will have one table where folks will write their letters or one table where folks can pick up all the information they need and move to empty tables nearby.
- Use a sample letter. Have a large copy taped to the wall or on an easel. Have several regular copies taped to the table or available for pick-up.
- Set up the table(s) in a visible, well-traveled area where there is plenty of space for folks to move around.
- Have an adequate numbers of chairs available. Provide ample numbers of pens, paper and envelopes, or postcards. If using just one table, provide clipboards for those who choose to write standing up.
- Have a list of the names and addresses of the officials to whom you are writing. If you are writing to the U.S. Senate, have both Senators? information available. If you are writing to members of the U.S. House of Representatives, be sure to have a way for folks to know the District in which they reside. Many churches have members and friends from more than one district.
During the Letter-Writing
- Be courteous, informative, and persuasive. Encourage folks to put the sample letter in their own words and to include personal experiences if possible.
- Assist those who may need help in composing their letters / postcards.
- If possible, stand up so that you are visible. If standing is not possible, wear a hat or sign that identifies you as the person in charge.
- Keep an eye open for folks who use a wheelchair. Invite them close to the table.
- Make your letter-writing table multigenerational! Bring crayons and colorful markers and ask kids to draw pictures that are relevant to the issue.
- Be sure that everyone includes his or her signature, printed name, and address. It is the only way that the intended recipient knows that the writer is a constituent.