Chances are, you’ve come across plenty of requests to contact your elected official about an issue you care about. Growing up in Europe, I wasn’t used to the concept. I’m just supposed to call up a politician and share my opinion with them? What if they get annoyed, or worse… ask some pointed questions I may not know how to answer?

Woman with cellphoneIf you’re like me, the act of picking up the phone and talking to a stranger about a topic you’re not an expert on can seem intimidating, especially if you don’t know exactly what you’re expected to do or say. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just continue to sign some generic online petitions and go on your merry way, hoping you’ve done your good deed for the day?

The bad news is that online petitions (with some notable exceptions) don’t usually accomplish much real-word change. They’re typically vaguely worded, and likely won’t even reach the intended recipient. But don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you stop signing them altogether—rather, let this be an encouragement to take the extra step and make sure your voice gets heard (literally!).

Now for the good news: calling your representative is much easier than you probably think, and is still the most powerful way to put pressure on your elected officials—much more effective than social media shares, email messages, or even postal mail.

So now that we’re all fired up, let’s look into what actually happens when you call. Many action alerts will include a phone number and a script.  If you’re unsure who your representative or senator is, you can look them up by state or ZIP. If you don’t get a recording, a legislative assistant or aide will pick up the phone.

Remember to:

  • Let them know you’re a constituent, so be sure to mention your city and ZIP code.
  • Be clear about the issue you’re calling about, and get straight to the point (i.e. “I am opposed to/in favor of… ”). There’s no need to be an expert, and you won’t have to defend your position!
  • Be brief! By being simple and direct, more callers will get through. The bigger the tally, the more powerful your voice.

Bonus tips:

  • Let them know you don’t need a response, so your call can be processed immediately.
  • If no one picks up the phone, be sure to leave a short voicemail!

It was time. I reached for the phone and entered my representative’s number. While listening to the dial tone, I reminded myself that the person on the other end of the line was a real human being whose job it was to listen to constituents. And so they did! With the help of some notes, I recited my short piece. The assistant thanked me for calling to share my concern. It really was that easy.

I often joke that if I could delete the Phone app from my smartphone, I would. But lending my voice to animals was worth some temporary discomfort… and if I can do it, so can you! Happy calling!

For more info, review this article by a former Staff Assistant on Capitol Hill for the inside scoop.

PS: Now that you’re newly empowered with these practical tips, let’s get to work and advocate for animals! Be sure to sign up for Marin Humane Advocacy Alerts and be the first to know about important legislative initiatives.