Issues and Advocacy

Advocate for change

Stay engaged beyond Election Day by taking action on issues you are passionate about! There are many ways to make your voice heard and advance positive change. These resources will help students engage with their elected officials and participate in advocacy efforts on local or national issues that are important to you.

The CCE also hosts events and workshops that provide tools, information and resources you can use to engage in effective changemaking. Check our events calendar for information about upcoming events.

Contact your elected officials

Talk to your elected officials about policy issues that matter to you. Ask them to vote a certain way on pending legislation, request that they raise awareness about an issue that is not currently receiving attention, or thank them for a particular vote or policy statement.

  • Get started

    1. Find out who represents you. Depending on the issue that you care about, there are a number of officials you can call at the local, state and federal levels. Be sure to research who has power and influence on the issue you care about.

    2. Research the issue. What kinds of issues do you care about most? Which issues are currently being considered at the official level? Check out reliable news sources, specific organizations you care about and trust, and political offices' websites to see when meetings will happen, when issues are discussed and when legislation will be voted on. Attend public meetings, such as city council meetings or town halls, to learn more about the issues and where your elected officials stand. You can also talk to other people about what issues they have been keeping track of and care about.

    3. Call! Calling is often more effective than emailing or writing a letter to get your message across. It is preferable to call the local or district office over the D.C. office, and be sure to call during regular business hours.

    Keep your message brief and clearly identify the issue you are calling about, why it is important to you, and the specific actions you want the elected official to take. Providing your address or zip code will also be helpful to show you are a constituent.

  • Sample script

    "Hi, My name is Baxter Bearcat. My zip code is 13850 and I am a constituent of [insert official's name]. I am calling to [insert message*] because [add in additional details if desired]. Will you please pass on the message?** Thanks for your time."

    *Your message could be a number of things: urge him/her to vote [yes/no/abstain] on [issue/bill/legislation], consider the interests of [organization/group], take [issue/cause] seriously, make a public statement about [issue], thank him/her for [doing, saying, voting ___].

    **You may also leave contact information, if you want: "If there are any questions, I am happy to discuss this further. Here is my contact information: ___."

    If you feel shy or nervous about calling, that is okay. Nobody will tell you that your issue is unimportant or argue with you. If the person says that the representative has a stance that disagrees with your message, simply reiterate your message. You may also elaborate more on the issue if you want to.

  • Find your officials
    Resources
    Quick list
    • NY Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (District 123): 607-723-9047 or 518-455-5431
    • State Senator Fred Akshar: 607-773-8771 or 518-455-2677
    • Congressmember Anthony Brindisi: 202-225-3665 or 607-242-0200
    • U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles (Chuck) Schumer: 607-772-6792
    • U.S. Senator Kristin Gillibrand: 212-688-6262
    • Congressional Switchboard: 202-224-3121
    • White House Switchboard: 202-456-1414

Contacting senators and representatives

  • By email
    All questions and comments regarding public policy issues, legislation or requests for personal assistance should be directed to the senators or representatives from your state. Some senators and representatives have email addresses while others have comment forms on their websites. Always include your postal mailing address to show your constituency.
  • By postal mail

    You can direct postal correspondence to your senator or representative at the following addresses:

    For correspondence to U.S. senators:

    Office of Senator [Name]
    United States Senate
    Washington, DC 20510

    For correspondence to senate committees:

    [Name of Committee]
    United States Senate
    Washington, DC 20510

    For correspondence to U.S. representatives:

    Office of Representative [Name]
    US House of Representatives
    Washington, DC 20515

  • By telephone

    Alternatively, you may phone the United States Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the senator's or representative's office you request.

Lobby guide

Have an issue you care about? Face-to-face meetings with legislators and their staff can be a critical step in advancing your policy ideas. Follow these tips for successful lobbying!

  • Set up your meeting

    1. Identify your issue and your target. Focus on a clear and specific topic and identify the legislator who is in position to make a difference.

    2. Reach out directly. Call the legislator's local office and let them know that you want a meeting with the representative. Be prepared to briefly articulate your position over the phone.

    3. Offer a flexible schedule. Legislators have busy schedules. Offer multiple times when you are available. If they take a message and don't follow up with you, call back in two days.

  • The ABCs of lobbying
    Ask
    Make a clear and confident ask. Pose a question that can result in a direct answer, such as "Can we count on you to..."
    Brevity
    Take time to make a convincing case, but get to the point quickly and keep the focus on your primary issue. Meetings typically last 15–20 minutes.
    Constituency
    Have residents of the representative's district lead the meeting or tell personal stories. Legislators may wish to use these anecdotes as they push the legislation forward with their colleagues.
    Details
    Keep detailed notes of the meeting's results. Know what the legislator agreed to do and share it with others working on your topic.
    Examples
    Use examples to back up your position. Personal stories, facts and anecdotes help to paint a clear picture of why your issue matters.
    Follow up
    After the meeting, send a handwritten or typed note to thank the representative for their time, briefly remind them of your cause and follow up on any lingering questions they had for you.
    Greeting
    Introduce yourselves and your connection to the issue at the beginning of the meeting. Begin by saying, "Before we start, I'd like to go around and give everyone an opportunity to introduce themselves..."
    Honesty
    Do not lie or make up information. It is perfectly fine to say, “I don’t know the answer to your question, but I will find out and get back to you.”
    Increase support
    If you are meeting with a representative who is supportive of your cause, encourage them to increase their support. They can become a champion of the issue, co-sponsor a bill or speak to fellow lawmakers.
    Jurisdiction
    Make sure your topic falls under the control of your chosen representative. Determine if your goals are of a local, state or federal nature, and target the legislator who represents your district on that level.
    Knowledge
    Go into the meeting knowing as much as possible about the representative's position. Reference their previous work on the topic or draw connections between their stances on related issues
    Listen
    Create an opportunity for a two-way conversation. Listen to what they have to say about the issue and find out what they might need to know in order to shift their stance.
    Materials
    Bring the legislator a one- or two-page fact sheet assessing your issue. Make sure that your information is clear and up to date.
    Number
    Reference your specific legislation by bill number. If it is not yet a bill, be very clear about your desired outcome and ask the representative to sponsor a new bill on the topic.
    Organization
    If you represent an organization or coalition, make sure to share this information with the representative. There is power in numbers and a larger effort demonstrates that people care about your topic.
    Practice
    Meet with your full lobby group beforehand to run through the steps of the meeting. Anticipate questions or counterpoints and be prepared to respond.
    Questions
    Be prepared for questions. Your fact sheet should cover the main points, but you may wish to assign more nuanced elements to group members who can research and respond to specific issues.  
    Reach out
    Several weeks before you wish to meet, call the legislator's local office and let them know that you want a meeting with the representative. Be prepared to briefly articulate your position over the phone.
    Schedule
    Legislators have busy schedules. Offer them multiple times when you are available. If they take a message and don't follow up with you, call back in two days.
    Travel
    Make sure your team plans out their route to the meeting, including parking and other logistics beforehand. If you are running late, the representative may move on to their next meeting.
    Understand
    Understand that you may be scheduled to meet with a staff member or legislative aide. This person will relay all information to your representative.
    Verify
    In the days before your meeting, call the representative's office to confirm the time and date. Let them know if there have been any changes to the number of people you plan to bring.
    What's next
    End your meeting with a brief summary of everyone's next steps. Repeat what the representative agreed to do and remind them of any further information you plan to send to their office.
    eXcitement
    Citizens influencing policy is an important part of our democracy. Send an encouraging email or text to the members of your group the day before to get them excited for this important act.
    Yield
    Do not interrupt or talk over members of your group or the legislator. If needed, make a note and you can circle back around to your point later.
    ZZZZZZ
    Get some sleep the night before your meeting. A well-rested advocate is a prepared and influential advocate.