by Ridge Welch
This summer I have been interning with one of my senators from South Carolina, Tim Scott. It has been an awesome opportunity that has really opened my eyes to how contacting your senator is perceived from the other side. Through my experiences, I have learned a lot of useful information about advocacy, so here are my top five tips for advocates on how to be effective voices for kids!
- BE POLITE. This should be a no-brainer, but you would be surprised about how many people are very rude to the staff in the office where I interned. Staffers I have met have been some of the nicest people who genuinely want to help constituents, but having a poor attitude with a staffer has a good chance of seriously hurting your cause.
- PROVIDE AS MUCH INFORMATION AS POSSIBLE. I’m sure that each elected official uses different software to input constituent concerns, but the office I worked in used software that required information like your mailing address to properly input your concerns. So when collecting signatures or writing letters, try to get a mailing address, email and phone number so we can relay your message.
- WRITE LEGIBLY. Again, this should also be a no-brainer, but try and write as legibly as possible on any written correspondence with your elected officials. If I can’t read what you are trying to tell me, I can’t do anything to help you! Also try and refrain from using cursive because this is a skill many younger interns lack, and those are generally the people who are going to be inputting your letters and petitions.
- SUBSCRIBE TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVE’S NEWSLETTER. Nearly all lawmakers have a weekly or monthly newsletter they send out via email. Visit your lawmaker’s website and sign up for this newsletter because it is a great way to stay up to date with what they are working on and events they will be attending.
- SEND A THANK YOU CARD/FOLLOW UP. Thank you notes are a nice gesture and sadly are becoming rarer these days. They will help to put your advocacy back in the minds of the staffers you met with. This is also a great opportunity to follow up and see how your elected official is working to meet your concerns.
I have enjoyed every second of my internship and I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to complete an internship with one of their lawmakers to give it a try! It has increased my skills as an advocate because I have been able to clearly see the best ways to advocate for issues I care about.