Advocacy

Write a letter to your legislator

A letter or email is the most popular choice of communication with a congressional office. The more personalized it is, the more your opinion will be taken into account. A handwritten letter has more weight than a typed letter, which has more weight than an email. The longer it takes you to write the letter, the more value it has to your representative.

Step 1: Identify your members of Congress

The email and physical addresses of your elected officials are available on their websites. You can find out who represents you on the House and Senate websites.

Step 2: Prepare your message

The first paragraph of your letter should state your position/request/reason for writing. If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, identify it accordingly, e.g., H.R. 1234 (for a House resolution) or S.B. 234 (for a Senate bill). Be courteous and to the point and include evidence to support your position. Address only one issue in each letter and, if possible, keep the letter to one page. You may ask for a response from your official.

Sample congressional letter

Date
The Honorable ________
Office Address
United States House of Representatives/United State Senate
City, State, Zip

Dear Representative/Senator ______________:

As a scientist and a constituent, I urge you to support an increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health, bringing funding to at least $XX billion for the next fiscal year. NIH research is the foundation for future medical breakthroughs that will save lives and money. The federal government’s investment in research must be sustained in order to translate today’s scientific findings into tomorrow’s bedside treatments. NIH funding supports my research on (insert a summary of your research and its potential benefits). Recent discoveries, such as those listed below, are a direct result of robust funding for the NIH.

  • The death rate for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S., has dropped 60% since 1940.
  • NIH research on the underlying molecular causes of cancer has helped to cut cancer deaths. In 2007, for the first time in history, the number of cancer deaths in the U.S. decreased.
  • In the 1950s, one in five people died within 20 years of diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. Today, that diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. Those with Type 1 diabetes are living longer and healthier lives.

The money invested in NIH research is redistributed to communities across the nation, including our district/state, creating jobs and stimulating the local economy. In my lab, we have (insert the number of current and/or former technicians, postdocs and students) who are learning the technical and intellectual skills required for future discoveries, treatments and cures.

A federal investment in basic research is an investment in the health and economic future of our nation. Please make biomedical research a higher priority by continuing to invest in the NIH.

Thank you for your consideration, and please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this issue further.

Sincerely,

Your Name
Your Title
Your Address
Your City, State, Zip
Your Phone Number

Step 3: Send your letter

Ensure that the addresses and names are correct, and then send your letter.

Other toolkit topics

Call your legislator

How to find your legislator's number, and what to say.

Do’s and don’ts for communicating with legislators

Do’s and don’ts for communicating with legislators

Helpful tips to make your meetings effective.

Meet with your legislators in person

Communicating directly with your elected officials is an important way to make your voice heard.

Prepare a lab tour for your legislators

Hosting a member of Congress at your institution is an excellent way to demonstrate the importance of federal funding for scientific research.

Write a letter to the editor

A letter to the editor of your local newspaper can be very effective at increasing public awareness of an issue important to your community.