Advocacy 101

We can give you the tools that you will need to get involved in our activism efforts. It may seem scary, but each one of us can play a part in helping shape change for those impacted by multiple sclerosis. Why be an MS activist? There are lots of reasons, check out our video to learn more.

How does a bill become a law in PA? Here is a guide you can print that explains the process for passing legislation in PA.  The PA General Assembly website provides great information about the PA legislature and the legislators that serve. You can find information on this site about taking a tour of the state capital, learn about the history of the Commonwealth and even download a fun activity kit for your children!

Do you remember Schoolhouse Rock? Here is a fun way to learn about how a bill becomes a law.

You can also find out who represents you by going here. Simply complete the address form, click go, and you will receive a list of your state and federal officials.

Communicating with Legislators

The first step in advocacy is letting your voice be heard on your issue. Contacting your legislator is a great way to let them know that you are concerned about a certain issue and that you need their help.

Starting communication with your legislator can be done by phone calls, e-mails, written letters and personal visits. The more contact legislators receive from their constituents regarding an issue, the more they realize how much it matters to them. You are the one that helped elect them to office, let them work for you.

Also, keep in mind that you cannot make assumptions based on someone’s position because of their party affiliation. Multiple sclerosis does not care if you are a Republican or Democrat. The National MS Society woks on legislative issues with officials from both sides of the political aisle.

Ten tips for writing to an elected official

Letters, e-mails and faxes are effective ways to communicate with your elected officials. Below are some tips on contacting and communicating with your elected official.

1. Be original – Consider writing your own original correspondence. The Society will provide you with a pre-written letter or postcard that you can simply sign, but many legislators consider a thoughtful, original letter from a constituent worth 1000 of these pre-written letters. Feel free to use a pre-written letter as a base and expand on it with your own words.

2. Stay brief – The maximum length of a letter/e-mail should be one page. Keep in mind that the letter will probably be read by a legislative aid, so a brief letter is best.

3. State who you are and what you are writing about – Identify yourself as a constituent and explain why you are writing in the first paragraph. This will keep your letter brief. However, refrain from using lines such as “As a citizen and a taxpayer….” Also, if you know the bill in question by name or number, state it in the first paragraph.

4. Personalize your letter/e-mail – If the legislation you are writing about will affect you personally, tell the legislator about it. Write a brief personal story about what the legislation will/will not do for you and/or your community.

5. Personalize your relationship – The more you can personalize your relationship with the legislator, the stronger your letter/e-mail will be. If you voted for the legislator, worked on his/her campaign or donated money to the legislator or his/her party, say so. If you have ever met the legislator, briefly mention this in your letter.

6. Three points – To keep your communication short, consider making no more than three main points. Flush out your three strongest points and stick with them.

7. Be respectful – The easiest way to not have your letter be read is to be disrespectful. “Dear Idiot” will probably send your letter straight to the garbage, but taking a firm position on an issue is fine. Do not use profanity. Even if your legislator is not the person you voted for, remember that you must be respectful.

8. Include your address in your signature, even in an e-mail – Legislators are busy people and you should never demand a response. However, some legislators will take the time to write back but they cannot if you do not include your address. Including your address also affirms the fact that you are a constituent.

9. Use a Proper Address - Below are the ways to address your letters:

(a) To a State Senator or Congressional Senator:

The Honorable (name)
Address
City, State, Zip

Dear Senator (last name):

(b) To a State Representative or Congressional Representative:

The Honorable (name)
Address
City, State, Zip

Dear Representative (last name):

10. Follow up - After you have contacted your elected officials, follow up on what they did. If he/she voted the way you wanted, call or write and say thank you. If your legislator did not vote the way you wanted, consider contacting them and respectfully expressing your disappointment. In any follow-up letter or e-mail, mention the fact that you wrote him/her before the vote was taken.

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