Tips for Writing Your Member of Congress
Contact only your member
of Congress: Members have electronic mail sorting systems that
remove out-of-state e-mails.
Write about only one topic at a time: Mail is sorted by
Ask precisely for
action: Be clear about what you
want accomplished, whether it is a vote "yes" or "no" on a bill, or to
sign on to a letter or a piece of legislation.
Be brief and concise and lead with your "ask": Staffers
may get hundreds of letters each day. You want to get their attention
Be courteous and non-offensive: Be positive and polite in
Include personal stories: These can be very powerful
messages to members of Congress. Tell them how a program or grant helps
you in the classroom or with your research. Members of Congress often use these
stories as examples in their floor speeches.
U.S. Postal Service: If you send in a letter by mail, be sure to include a
return address. **Due to heightened security, all letters are
radiated before entering member offices. Therefore, do not attach any
photos, s, or plastic/photo paper as these will be destroyed by this
ABCs for Meeting with Members of Congress
Arrive early: Long lines are common at the Senate and House Office
Be prepared with substantive
information: You may need to educate the staffer or member on
the issues. So go prepared with relevant materials and information on
funding or programs that are specific to their district or
Create Handouts: Make or bring handouts on the issues that
are easy to read and no longer than one page per issue.
District visits: If you cannot travel to Washington DC,
schedule a meeting with your representative, or staff, in their district
office. Meetings with district office staff are effective ways of
advocating for anything including political science.
Explain broad effect of the issue you are
promoting: We are trying to make the argument that while not
all political scientists receive NSF grants, many of those projects that
receive funds have a trickle down effect for the rest of the
Follow up with a thank you:After your meeting, send
an e-mail to the staff member or office that you visited and thank them for
taking the time to meet with you. If they asked you for any more
information, include it in this message.
Give them your business card: They may have any
Have reasonable expectations: You may have a short
meeting with staff and not the member.
Often these staffers are young and may not know all the specifics about
this issue. Do not take this as a sign of disrespect or indifference,
this is just how member offices work. Staffers are trained to take
notes and communicate the message to your member.
Include APSA talking points: It is important to
communicate a relatively consistent message so it resonates with member
offices and the media. Try to incorporate the talking points into your own
arguments, using your own examples.
Other Ways to Advocate For Political Science
Invite your representative to your classroom: By
inviting your senator, member of Congress, or their staff to your classroom
you can show them first hand the impact of NSF funds and political science
research. It also gives them an opportunity to interact with their own
constituents who are benefiting from this funding.
Write an Op-Ed piece in your local newspaper: Members of Congress pay
close attention to the local media in their district.
Tips for writing an Op-Ed
- Call the opinions editor beforehand to see if they are interested
in the topic.
- Be brief: Use clear concise arguments.
- Simple format: One paragraph to introduce the issue, one to explain
its importance, one its relevance to you, and relevance to the
Talking Points on the Political Science Program at NSF
Political science is the only discipline that systematically
and scientifically examines political phenomena. It is
essential to well-rounded, comprehensive and self-reflective
public debate that is the foundation of a free society.
Restricting political science research by limiting – or
eliminating – funding the National Science Foundation
poses a serious threat to American democracy by
- undermining core democratic values such as transparency
and accountability by obstructing evaluation of political
institutions and processes;
- censoring public debate by limiting knowledge that
informs discussion of critical issues facing the nation;
- jeopardizing the nation’s responses to domestic
and international crises.
Singling out specific fields of science for limitation –
or elimination – at the National Science Foundation poses a
serious threat to the integrity and independence of the national
science agenda by,
- thwarting the professional, scientific peer
review, which is second to none in the world;
- subjecting all scientific fields to the slippery slope
of political pressure; and,
- chilling inquiry, innovation, and creativity within and
among all fields of study.