Step 1: Pick An Issue
The first step is to find the issue that is most important to you. It may seem like common sense, but this is where most people start off on the wrong foot. It can be hard to focus all of your passion and energy onto one issue, but you will be more successful if you do.
If you are constantly writing your member of Congress and their staff with a different issue every week, you run the risk of getting pegged as somebody who cannot be pleased no matter what happens. If you decide on one issue that you are passionate about, and only focus on that issue, your voice will be stronger.
Additionally, as we discussed before, influencing Congress takes a lot of work. Many people spend their whole career advocating for an issue and never see any substantial progress. You face an uphill battle just trying to get one issue on the radar; you are setting yourself up for failure if you have two or more issues.
Choosing your passion is an incredibly important step in your quest to become an unstoppable advocate. If you pick an issue that is simple and relevant, you’ll find much more success.
If you cannot decide on an issue, try looking at the website of your member of Congress. On most members’ websites, they list the issues that they are most passionate about. If your passion aligns with an issue that your member cares about, then it might be a good opportunity to work with your member of Congress on that issue. It is much easier to get a representative to go from a supporter to a champion than it is to have them change their stance on an issue. (Being labeled a flip-flopper is the kiss of death for a politician.)
If you are lucky enough to be represented by somebody who is the chairperson of a committee or subcommittee, they are in a position of power to do something about your issue. You will have a much easier time dealing with that person’s office than somebody who has no committee relationships.
If you live in a congressional district that is 90% Republican, you are going to have a hard time focusing on something like increasing funding to Planned Parenthood. Similarly, if you live in a urban center with 90% Democrats, picking a traditionally conservative issue like welfare reform might not be your best bet. If you are from a relatively moderate district, avoid supporting or working on issues on the extreme of either end of the political spectrum.
This person cares about too many issues, you have to pick ONE!
The more specific your issue, the more likely it is that you will succeed. For example, ending homelessness in the US seems like an impossible task for a member of Congress to solve. However, if you ask your member to support a bill that makes it easier for veterans to find housing, your member of Congress and their staff will view this as a much more achievable goal and be more willing to help.