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How to Communicate Your Message Effectively

Contacting members of Congress and their staff gives you the opportunity to educate them about the work of your foundation and get their support. Whether you choose telephone, fax, e-mail, or a visit in person, you’ll need to prepare your message carefully to convey it effectively and memorably.

Be Brief
Be clear and concise in stating your concerns about an issue. Legislators and their staffs have multiple demands on their time. The more concise the message, the more likely it will be read or heard.

Be Informed
Understand the legislative process. It will assist you in presenting more meaningful information to the legislator.

Be Informative
Do not assume that legislators are familiar with foundation operations. Share your professional knowledge and personal experience. Convey to members the value of foundations in the communities in which they serve. A well-informed member of Congress can be a great ally to you and the sector.

Be Prepared
Know the facts. Do your homework on the issues you wish to discuss. Every issue has at least two sides. Be prepared to respond to the opposing viewpoint.

Be Honest
If you do not know the answer to a question, say so. It is important to establish and maintain credibility. Commit to finding out the answer. When you return home, respond to the member or to staff in writing.

Be Firm in Your Convictions
Do not try to compromise or “make a deal” on the legislation or viewpoint you are supporting. At the same time, recognize that legislators are trying to find solutions to problems that may have many different sides.

Be Courteous
Maintain a professional, courteous demeanor when communicating with your representative. Even if you disagree on an issue, you may need the legislator’s assistance in the future. Never argue, threaten or deliver ultimatums. Such behavior will only work against you and your position. Compliment your legislator when he or she accomplishes something. Write thank-you notes to express appreciation for the legislator’s time. Not only is this proper etiquette, but it allows you to reiterate briefly your concerns

Source: Council on Foundations, www.cof.org