tips and assistance
Advocating for the University of Minnesota is rewarding and exciting. It requires nothing
more than good will towards the University, and the willingness to share that feeling.
Elected officials count on their constituents to let them know what is important in their
communities. Communicating and building relationships with your elected officials is a
proactive way to influence the legislative process and to promote the University of
Communications with elected officials will accomplish three goals: you will engage
them, educate them about the issue, and enlist them in your cause. Here are some tips
to help make that happen.
Letter or email
- Personal letters often make a greater impression. Download stationery (PDF).
- State your purpose in the first paragraph. If your letter pertains to a piece of
legislation, identify it.
- Explain why you support or oppose the issue. Try to use local examples.
- Be courteous.
- Indicate that you would appreciate a reply containing their position on the issue.
- Follow up. If you agree or disagree with their position or the vote they cast, let
- Use correct titles and names for the elected official.
Keep in mind phone calls are often answered by staff members or aides.
Ask to speak with the legislative aide who handles your issue. If they are not available,
you may leave a message. If you speak with someone other than your elected official,
take down their name and title.
- Identify yourself by name and the organization you represent or town you’re
- Say why you are calling. Focus on one or two points. Ask your legislator for his/her
position on this issue. Don’t assume that your legislator has knowledge of it. Be
respectful. Be prepared to give local examples.
- Request a written response to your phone call if you did not speak directly with
your elected official. If the legislator needs more information, provide it as soon
- Thank the person who took the phone call for their time and consideration.
Meeting in person
To request a meeting, call the office of the elected official. State that you are a
constituent, give several dates and times you are available, and indicate what you want
- Arrive five or ten minutes early.
- Plan for a brief meeting. Most last no more than 15 to 20 minutes.
- Thank the person for their time.
- As a follow up, send a thank you to the elected official and the staff persons.
Restate your understanding of their position to reiterate any support they
may have expressed for your issue or cause. Answer any questions they
had that you did not get to address in person. If the meeting outcome was
inconclusive, this is your opportunity to address the issue again.
Letter to the editor
A thoughtful, well written letter to the editor can sway public
opinion and influence decision makers.
- Keep the letter short. Most publications have a word limit.
Short letters have a greater chance of being printed and read.
- Open strong. You might point out an error or
misrepresentation in an article, disagree with an editorial, or add a
key point to a discussion.
- Be accurate. Use verifiable facts or information to support your point.
- If responding to a letter or article, cite the piece. Don’t
assume that readers have read it.
- Avoid personal attacks.
- End with a central thought for readers to take away.
- Send the letter to additional local community publications
and weekly or monthly publications around the state. Feel free to send
it to multiple newspapers.