Sharon McMahon's commitment to truth and the democratic processes that shape the US gave her the online title of America's Government Teacher®. By sharing non-partisa...
Starting your advocacy journey might seem a bit overwhelming, but don't worry. Sharon McMahon, the brain behind Sharon Says So on social media and former government teacher, is here to help. Known for her work promoting truth, democracy, and non-partisan education, Sharon has loads of wisdom to share. Here are her top three tips for those ready to make a difference.
1. Get involved with an organization
There is power in collective action. If you feel passionate about a cause, joining an advocacy group at your favorite nonprofit is one of the best ways to make a difference.
“Existing organizations know how to arrange meetings with lawmakers and create change,” said Sharon. “Answering their call for donations, advocacy assistance, or volunteering is gratifying. It's also easier to create change as a group than on your own.”
Why does this tactic work so well?
“Members of Congress listen to numbers. One person is easy to ignore.” Sharon said, “Tens of thousands of people calling for the same thing isn’t.”
Learn more about Voices for Kidney Health, the National Kidney Foundation’s patient-centric group dedicated to promoting better kidney policies.
2. Know your audience
Finding your representative is easy. Either put your address into our “Find Your Lawmaker” tool or visit Congress.gov.
“At the top of congress.gov, there is a place for you to enter your ZIP code and street address. It will tell you who your representative is and link to your representative’s web page. It has their phone numbers and a contact form where you can send them an email,” said Sharon. “People feel intimidated about contacting their representatives or their senators. But the initial person reading that email or taking your call is usually in their twenties. They are recent college graduates, people who applied for a job and got hired.”
The staff reads all the incoming emails, answers the telephone, and passes the message on. You don’t need any advanced training to advocate! All you need is your voice.
“Many feel they need a Ph.D. to speak with their lawmakers. You do not. Trust me, you have to work harder to get a refund from your cell phone carrier." Sharon said, "You can send the same email to all your representatives or use it as a script for calls. For state-level bills, contact your state-level representatives. If it is a federal-level bill, contact all the representatives."
Find your state and see how kidney disease impacts every state and how Congress can help address these challenges.
3. Craft Your Message
Now that you know who your representatives are, it’s time to contact them.
“Be simple, direct, and polite. Say exactly what you're hoping for and let them know that you're watching. That’s approximately 10 to 15 sentences which everyone can do.” Sharon said, “An over-the-top letter with dissertation-level research attached is easy to ignore. Your personal story is more motivating.”
Sharon’s tips for a successful advocacy email or call script:
- Politely identify yourself. Provide your address so your representative knows you are a constituent.
- Tell them why you are writing–whether that is to sponsor a bill or consider a policy.
- Give them a few personal reasons to support your proposal.
- Urge the representative to take action on the issue that you are advocating for.
- Let them know that you appreciate their time, will be watching to see how they vote on the matter, and sign off.
Then make a note for yourself to follow up in a few weeks.
“Most lawmakers will tell you that it's the persistent people who get them to take action. Anyone can send one email. It’s something else to follow up consistently,” said Sharon. “It’s perhaps annoying, but one person's annoyance is another’s persistence. Should you email every day? No, but following up every three to four weeks is not excessive.”
All NKF petitions and letters have pre-crafted messages to make your advocacy efforts even easier. All you need to do is put in your address, sign your support, and add a short, personal message. We’ll take care of the rest. Take action with Voices for Kidney Health.
Ready to make a difference?
Voices for Kidney Health is ready to stand by your side in the fight for better kidney health policies. Become an advocate to get started.
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