The number of constituents that Rep. John Faso (R-NY-19) represents increased exponentially when he moved from the state legislature to Congress in 2017. With more constituents come more messages—emails, calls, meetings, and letters from voters and advocacy organizations voicing opinions on policy issues. According to Faso, his team has received over 200,000 messages from constituents in his first 15 months in office. To make your voice heard amongst those 200,000, Faso shared three keys to success:
In preparation for the upcoming Farm Bill, Faso has been meeting with farmers and businesses in the agriculture industry for over a year. Faso anticipates amendments being added when the bill gets to the floor, but the major decisions of what goes into the final legislation have been made in the committee process.
“We’ve worked closely with members of the agriculture community, the ag producers, and our ag businesses over the last year,” Faso said. “[We’ve been] holding roundtables with farmers in the district, going to Farm Bureau meetings, meeting with agriculture constituencies, meeting with them here [in Washington], meeting in the district, just to get ready for this.”
If there is a major piece of legislation that impacts your organization’s bottom line, make sure you take advantage of the committee process. Whether it's mobilizing advocates at district roundtables or showing up to committee hearings, don’t wait to communicate your message with policymakers who can impact your issues.
When asked about the best avenues for constituents to communicate their correspondence, Faso quickly mentioned his team’s three district offices.
“[Utilize] our district offices,” Faso said. “[We have] three of them throughout the district in Delhi, Kinderhook, and Kingston, and we have the mobile office hours that constituents can avail themselves of.”
While your organization may coordinate a Hill Day in Washington each year, it’s important to remind your advocates to visit their local district office. District offices provide a lower barrier to access and offer a great way to build long-term relationships with staff in a specific community.
While Faso and his staff pay attention to each message they receive from constituents, the ones that stand out are the ones that share a unique message or story.
“You get mass communications or mass email communications that are often organized by outside groups and its the same form letter,” Faso said. “You pay attention to those, but when you get the unique individual circumstance, obviously that catches your attention.”
If your organization has a standard format for the messages your supporters send to their members of Congress, consider incorporating a dedicated section for customization and personalization—empowering each advocate to share their personal story within the message.
Making your voice heard amongst 200,000 others may seem daunting. However, with the simple steps outlined above, your organization and its supporters can increase the chances of your issues reaching a legislator’s desk. Whether you’re writing an email, making a phone call, or showing up in person, anyone looking to communicate with their member of Congress should be early in the process, take advantage of district offices, and offer a unique story about the issue they're facing.