Notes on Contacting your Members of Congress

Does communicating with a MoC affect the voter who does so? Yes.

Taking a stand by engaging in action encourages additional action and greater commitment. People who make a demand or in some way say “NO!” are more likely to continue taking political action and are less likely to become discouraged, alienated, or fatalistic. Constituents who communicate with their MoCs on issues are far more likely to vote in the next election and actively campaign. People who communicate with their MoCs are more likely to express opinions to friends and neighbors, which influences the general culture and public opinion, which influences MoCs when they decide upon a position. History is made by people who show up, and communicating with your MoC is an important method of showing up.

MoC communication content needs to be concise and categorizable. Phone calls and emails are categorized and tagged by interns or low-level staff, and only the tag, rather than the full content of a communication, is logged into the Constituent Relations Management (CRM) database. Rarely does a MoC or high-level staff member see the actual text of a constituent communication. In most MoC offices, what the senior staff see are only the total counts, for example: DACA:Pro-22, DACA:Anti-8, Impeachment:Pro-33, Impeachment:Anti-20.

Calls & emails are roughly equally effective because they all get tagged and counted. Letters in envelopes may be delayed or blocked by security screening. For MoC staff, emails are easier for them to tag and count — and are more likely to generate a form-letter response because they come with return email address. Many offices now automatically enter email content into the CRM database (though only the tags are batched and counted). Phone calls are more disruptive because they jam lines and require more staff time to handle.

  • Since MoCs and their senior staff rarely see the actual content of a constituent message, educating our Indivisible SF members about political issues and motivating their political activism is just as important to resisting Trump and the Republicans as trying to influence MoC positions.

  • Since influencing MoCs and educating/motivating our ISF members are of equal importance, the content of our newsletter, website, and Calls To Action (CTA) need to reflect that balance.

  • Since the effort of personalizing a message does have a significant mobilizing effect on the ISF member who sends it, we should explore ways of encouraging and helping members personalize their messages.

  • Since the proven amount of constituent action we can generate affects how seriously a MoC take us as a group, it is essential that Indivisible SF members identify themselves in every message and action.

  • Since MoCs treat phone calls and emails the same, we should include phone and email “how to” information in our CTA, as well as links to MoC-message apps like ResistBot.

  • Since MoCs and senior staff monitor and are influenced by opinion and editorial pieces in local papers and online publications, we should develop an Op-Ed program.

  • Since in-office visits have the greatest influence on MoCs, we need to consistently evaluate and improve the effectiveness of our MoC meetings. The size of delegations is less important than the quality of discussion content. Developing a personal relationship with MoC staff is valuable, so we should have consistency among those who participate in meetings with MoC staff.

Lauren Carpenter