Image of ACLU staff mailing post cards to state lawmakers 

When a lawmaker gets multiple emails or letters at once, it makes a clear statement on how important a particular issue is to the community. 

A majority of our communications live online today. That’s why a handwritten letter or post card will truly stand out to your elected officials you are trying to educate. Additionally, the sheer act of getting community members together to act on a particular issue offline, face-to-face, in the form of a letter writing party can bolster levels of excitement around issues important any community.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you plan to host a letter writing party or day of action in your community.

Figure out what your target is and your ask.

You can approach a letter writing party differently.

  1. The first is to have a predetermined “ask” that you want a decisionmaker to pursue. (i.e. “Vote yes for this bill!” or “Show up to this event to support LGBTQ+ people.”) This method is best when you have a group of folks who are already invested in a particular issue area or event. Chances are, they are on the same page as you and will echo the ask.
  2. Another option would be to bring people together who are unfamiliar with a particular issue area and work to educate them on the best course of action. As the organizer, you should be clear from the beginning about whatever issue you want the group to focus on. Whether it is environmental issues, fossil fuels, or the voting rights act, you must be straight-forward and honest with your attendees. Let them know in advance of your gathering what the topics and asks will be so they can best prepare or come with questions ready. 

Select your location

When planning for a public event, it would be best to estimate (and round up) the number of attendees and choose the venue accordingly. If you anticipate a smaller group or it’s a private invite only event, you might be able to host in in your home or the home of one of your peers. Consider where you work and where people usually hang out when you plan a public event. For example, if you’re a college student, you could use venues that are up for grabs for free such as common areas, libraries, or even classrooms.

A note on refreshments. These are always good to have at any event, however, you should not feel obligated to purchase them. If you’re planning a public event consider talking to a local coffee shop about reserving a few tables to write letters. That way, your beverages can be taken care of by the shop and attendees are able to purchase their own.

Invite people

This might be one of the most important steps. Attendees can come from all aspects of your life—work, school, faith, friends, family, neighbors—the options are unlimited (though be sure to keep your venue’s capacity in mind). If you have a core group of people that you often talk with about issues, start with them. See who wants to be involved and might even help you coordinate the activity.

When sending off invites, make sure to include basic information about the issue(s) you plan to discuss. Don’t forget to include details about the venue and refreshments, if any will be provided. Additionally, make a proactive attempt to see if any attendees require translators or interpreters. (If you need help finding a volunteer interpreter please email southdakota@aclu.org.)

Prepare your supplies and information

Provide each of your attendees with some sort of basic information about whatever issue(s) you are talking about and contact information for possible targets. If you are providing any additional supplies such as pens, paper or voter registration information, be sure everything is in an easily located spot and is organized the night before.

Host your event!

On the day of your event be sure to arrive early to set up, prepare your materials, and mitigate any issues that might arise before your event start time.

When your attendees start to arrive, greet them individually and thank them for attending. Help them get situated and started writing. Be aware of anyone seems to be struggling with their letters and offer support when appropriate.

Follow up

Each attendee should receive some sort of follow up, like a text, Facebook post in an event page, or personalized email. Be sure to make folks feel welcome and appreciated.

 

Give us a call or email after your event, too. We want to know how it went!

 

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