The State of Advocacy
The state of advocacy
Out of the 325 million constituent correspondences received by Congress in 2006, 95% was electronic and 90-95% are form letters (form emails, form faxes, form postal letters). The rest are mostly petitions, and postcards. We learned from speaking directly with ten different congressional offices that form letters are much less influential compared to personal correspondence.
As the Congressional Management Foundation concluded after three extensive studies:
There is a difference between 100 identically texted constituent messages arriving in a congressional office and six personally drafted letters from citizens that want their Member to know how a bill or issue personally affects their daily lives.
Many congressional offices are suspicious of advocacy campaigns consisting of identical form messages because of concerns that
the messages are not “real”…[t]his mistrust leads many offices to assign some or all advocacy campaigns a lower priority than personalized messages or to filter out or ignore these communications.
Not every constituent communication influences each office equally. According to staff we surveyed and interviewed, communications that included some unique or individualized information had significantly more impact on the decision-making of Members of Congress than did identical form messages…in cases where the Member/Senator has not reached a firm decision on an issue, 44% of staff surveyed said that individualized postal communications have “a lot” of influence, compared to 3% for identical form communications.
We independently confirmed the Congressional Management Foundation’s findings by talking with congressional staff at ten different congressional offices. One aid to a U.S. Senator told us: “Form letters and blasts are worthless for convincing Congressman, individual personal notes are most influential”.
 Hysom, Tim. Communicating with Congress: Recommendations for Improving the Democratic Dialogue. Technology Guide. Washing D.C.: Congressional Management Foundation, 2008.
 Goldschmidt, Kathy and Brad Fitch. Communicating with Congress: How Capitol Hill is Copping with the Surge of Citizen Advocacy. Technology Guide.