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How to Write an Advocacy Letter — The Ultimate Guide

How to Write an Advocacy Letter — The Ultimate Guide

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An advocacy letter can be an important tool for participation in a democracy.

Advocacy letters are usually written to politicians to express your view about a certain issue although there may be occasions when it is appropriate to write one to another influential figure or organization.

In this blog post, we’ll talk about what needs to go in an advocacy letter to make it as persuasive as possible and get the job done!

Advocacy letter dos and don’ts

There are a few general principles that you should follow when writing an advocacy letter that will mean your letter is more likely to be read and taken seriously.

Do write to the correct person

You might be really upset about an issue in another district or state, but the fact is that politician’s offices generally discard letters that are not from their constituents.

Therefore, in most cases, it is best to stick to writing to your own representative.

If you are writing to an organization, take a look at their organizational chart or masthead beforehand and try to find the specific person that your letter would be best addressed to.

Don’t ramble and rant

If you need to rant, send an email to your friends. Your letter should be concise.

Keeping it to one page or less is the best approach. Remember that the office you are writing to is getting a lot of these, and your letter will make more of an impression if you are able to get your point across quickly.

Do be specific

Before sitting down to write the letter, think about the specific action you want the person you are writing to take.

You could say something like “Cars are very dangerous to bikes, and you need to do something about this immediately!” but that does not give your representative much to go on.

Instead, you might ask for something specific, such as more bike lanes or more enforcement of existing rules that protect cyclists.

If you are arguing for the former, you might write “Cars are very dangerous to cyclists, and this is why starting to add bike lanes throughout the city, beginning with the very busy Mayflower Boulevard, is important for bike safety.”

Don’t use a template

If you are passionate about a cause that a lot of people are currently concerned about, you might find at least one organization that has put out a template that you can use.

You could just cut and paste this into an email, maybe with a few small changes, so why not do that?

The reason is that original letters that constituents write in their own words have far greater weight than a form letter received from dozens, hundreds or thousands of people.

Of course, something is better than nothing, so if you really have absolutely no time and the matter is an urgent one, go ahead and use the template suggested by others. Otherwise, it’s best to use your own words.

This goes for the samples provided below as well. These are here to give you an idea of how to write an effective advocacy letter, but your letter will be more effective if it is written by you.

Do stay positive

No matter how angry you are, your letter will be less effective if you are overcome by this.

Instead, remain positive and appreciative. Offer constructive suggestions.

Avoid personal attacks. It’s okay if you think your political representative is an idiot, but you shouldn’t tell them that!

Do send a letter if you can

Letters can sometimes make more of an impression than an email. A letter suggests that you took the extra time to write and print the letter, find an envelope and stamp, and mail it.

The exception to this is if the issue is an urgent one.

Letters can be delayed not just by the time it takes for it to be delivered but by security screenings. Therefore, it could take a few days or, in some cases, a few weeks for your letter to arrive.

If the matter is an urgent one, you should send an email instead.

You could also always send one of each to cover all your bases!

The form of an advocacy letter

It may help to think about your advocacy letter in the form of four paragraphs.

This does not mean that every advocacy letter must have exactly four paragraphs, but if you are struggling with how to structure your letter, this is a good pattern to follow.

In your introduction, you should introduce yourself as a constituent and state your issue and what you want done. Try to keep this to just three or four sentences.

Next, you should talk about the issue in more detail and how it affects you and those around you.

In your third paragraph, you should offer your ideas for a solution or the action you want the recipient of the letter to take.

The last paragraph should reinforce and restate what has come before. Try to come up with a good closing sentence that sums up the issue.

Example of an advocacy letter: Information

In one type of advocacy letter, you might simply be seeking more information about a topic.

This is the kind of letter that you would write if you are not sure where your representative stands on an issue. You want to tell them what you think, and you want to get feedback from them.

This type of letter is often about an issue that has been brought to a politician’s attention because there is a vote coming up about it.

Here’s an example of how you might write such a letter.

Dear Councillor Riley,

My name is Joseph Garcia, and I am a lifelong resident of Pleasantville. Recently, I have been reading about plans to build an industrial park where there are currently wetlands. I am concerned about the environmental impact, and I am wondering where you stand on this issue.

I understand that the industrial park would bring much-needed jobs to the area, but the damage to these wetlands would be irrevocable. I enjoy bringing my family there for walks along the stream, and my father and I go bird-watching there. The wetlands are home to many endangered species and are important for migratory birds. If they are destroyed, we will be damaging not just a beloved community gathering spot but our planet.

I believe that there are two other possible sites in Pleasantville that are being considered that would not involve this kind of environmental damage. What is your position on this, and how do you plan to vote when the matter comes before the council?

Please let me know your thoughts on this issue. Jobs are important, but the long-term health of Pleasantville is as well. Once we have lost these precious wetlands, we cannot get them back.


Joseph Garcia

Notice how the structure of this letter matches the form discussed above.

In the first paragraph, the writer introduces himself, explains he is a constituent and states the issue, which is the development of the wetlands area.

In the second paragraph, he describes how the destruction of the wetlands would affect him and his family as well as the wider community and the environment.

In the third paragraph, he offers a solution, which is locating the industrial park somewhere else. He asks the recipient how they plan to vote on this issue.

Finally, in the fourth paragraph, he reinforces why this is such an important issue.

Example of an advocacy letter: Action

With another type of advocacy letter, you might be identifying an issue that bothers you and asking the politician to take a certain action on it.

This could range from a hot-button issue that everyone is talking about right now to a much less known problem that only you are raising for the first time.

Below is an advocacy letter that is asking a politician to take a specific action.

Dear Representative Faulkner,

My name is Lisa Clark, and I am a resident of Pleasantville. I am very concerned about bicycle safety in this city. In the past three months, there have been three serious accidents involving cyclists, and the cars were at fault in all three of them. I think bicycle lanes would prevent these accidents.

I ride my bike to work most days. Several of my coworkers and friends do as well. As for the ones who don’t, one of the main reasons they cite for not doing so is concerns about safety. Cars and trucks simply do not want to share the road with cyclists, and the city has done nothing to enforce the laws that would make cyclists safer. As a result, an activity that is both good for the environment and good for the health of residents is being curtailed.

Dedicated bicycle lanes would completely alter the landscape for cyclists. Not only would it provide an area for cyclists to travel in safely, but it would send a message to drivers that Pleasantville is prioritizing the needs of cyclists.

Please work to support the construction of bike lanes throughout Pleasantville. Encouraging cycling is better for the community in every way, and making it safe to do so is a critical part of that improvement.


Lisa Clark

As with the previous example, you can see that this one also follows the form.

First, there is the introduction and statement of the problem as well as what the letter writer is asking for, bicycle lanes to make cycling safer.

In the second paragraph, she outlines how cycling is unsafe for people, and in the third paragraph, she explains what the benefit of bicycle lanes would be.

Finally, she reinforces her point in sending the letter, which is to ask the politician to support the building of bike lanes.

Other advocacy letters

As discussed above, politicians are not the only people you might write an advocacy letter to.

For example, if you are a member of a national environmental organization, you might write to them to ask that they advocate for a specific issue or to take a certain action on an issue.

These types of letters would be similar to the ones above.