Building a Relationship with your Legislator: Step 1
*This posted was updated in January 2019.
As a social worker and a constituent, it is important to establish a relationship with your legislators as they make decisions on your behalf- whether it’s to continue funding a program that serves your clients or funds your current position or a policy decision that impacts how your clients are served. NASW-NC is here to help you develop a relationship with your legislator. We are introducing a new series to be used to help you establish that relationship and a tool we hope you will use as you plan to join us in Raleigh for Social Work Advocacy Day.
How should I FIND my legislator?
The first step in building a relationship with your legislator is learning who represents you. You are searching for two different people here- one is your House Representative and the second is your NC Senator. It is easy to look up your legislators:
Step 1: Email your legislator. This is the easiest step to building that relationship- reaching out via email.
How should I first contact my legislator?
Most of us spend too much time sending emails anyway, what is one more to your legislator? To help break the ice with your legislator, send him or her a quick email that tells who you are and what you do in their community- working in an agency or going to school. Here are some tips to writing an effective email:
Always fill in the subject line with a topic so that your legislator knows what to expect when they open it (and so they know it is not spam).
Always specify what you’re writing about- wanting to schedule a meeting, concerns about a bill, concerns about a problem you see in the district, etc.
Don’t use ALL CAPITALS (no shouting!)
As a general rule, PLZ avoid textspeak (abbreviations and acronyms): you may be ROFLOL (rolling on the floor laughing out loud), but your reader may be left wondering WUWT (what’s up with that).
Be brief and polite
Add a signature with appropriate contact information (in most cases, your name, business address, and phone number, along with a legal disclaimer if required by your company).
Edit and proofread before hitting “send.” You may think you are too busy to sweat the small stuff, but unfortunately your legislator may think you are just careless and not someone they should rely on for helpful information.
This is email is the first impression that your legislator will have of you. Make sure you make it a good one! Be sure to include:
Who you are
Where you are from
Role as a social worker
Purpose to the email: Mention if you are attending NASW-NC Advocacy Day OR mention an event you wish to invite them to at your agency or school
Contact information for future correspondence
You can use the following example to help you draft your first email:
Dear Representative OR Senator (last name):I am a registered voter in (City, County, District) and I am also a social worker/social work student at (place and location).I realize that you are faced with many tough decisions as you work to represent our district and I hope to speak with you about some of my concerns that I see in the district as a social worker. I will be participating in Social Work Advocacy Day hosted by the National Association of Social Workers, NC Chapter on (insert date). I hope that I will be able to discuss some of my concerns with you at that time. I will be calling you in the near future to set up a time that works for your schedule.