Advocacy Tools

Tips for Making a Difference for UNMC

When you advocate on behalf of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, you help to elevate the conversation about the importance of UNMC's work across Nebraska, the U.S. and beyond. Here are some tips to help you make a difference, whether you are writing or calling an elected official or making a personal visit.

Writing to Elected Officials

Letters and emails can make a difference, but not all are influential. Many elected officials differentiate between form letters or copied emails and those that are personally written. The more influential letters and emails are those that are personal, thoughtful and specific. Here are some do's and don'ts:

Write as an individual
Elected officials pay attention to personal letters from the constituents of the district that elected them. They recognize the time and effort you put into the correspondence. A personal email or letter will receive more attention than a form letter.
Say why you are writing
State your subject in the first paragraph. If you are writing about legislation, name the bill by number and/or title.
Keep it short and simple
Limit yourself to one page or less. State whether you are supporting or opposing the issue. Don’t make them hunt to find your opinion.
Be timely
Send your letter or email before the elected official has to decide an issue.
Ask for action
Ask the elected official to do something specific, such as, "Please vote for (or against) (number of the bill).
Properly address your communication

Always address an email or letter to an elected official as “The Honorable …” For example:

The Honorable Jane Doe
Name of office held (Governor, US Senator, Congressman, State Senator, Regent, etc.)
Institution (State of Nebraska, U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, Neb. Legislature, Board of Regents, etc.)
Street address
City, State, Zip

RE: (Name the subject or name of legislative bill and number)
Dear Governor Doe:

Be sure to date your letter, and sign with your full name and address.

Don't be rude
Don't demand the elected official’s cooperation or threaten, insult, lecture or ridicule the elected official you are asking to take an action. Don't allege motives or question the honesty of others. Stick to explaining your views.
Don't be political
Don't adopt a politically partisan tone in your comments.
Don't write too often
Don't become a chronic letter writer. Pick your issues wisely.

Meeting with Elected Officials, Staff Members

If you are interested in meeting with an elected official or a staff member on behalf of UNMC, notify our office in advance by calling 402-559-5768 or emailing us. Our office can assist you in making appointments and can provide background about other issues to be aware of around the time of your appointment.

Tips for Meetings

Follow these suggestions to prepare for your meeting.

Be on time and ready to present
Most appointments last only 15 to 20 minutes. Keep introductions brief to allow enough time to talk about your topic. Be prepared to present your topic within 5-10 minutes. If you are part of a group, decide ahead of time who will lead the conversation for the group.
Be brief and specific

State the topic and the one or two main points you want to make. Be specific. Use local examples. It is good to know the national impact, but your elected official needs to know the state or local impact to know why the topic is important to Nebraska or UNMC. Local examples or personal stories help make it meaningful.

If you have a handout, make sure it summarizes the primary points and does not exceed two pages. 

Let the official speak, too
It is a conversation so give the elected official or staff member time to talk after you’ve presented.  Know with whom you are meeting and be generally aware of public comments that person might have made about the topic. Let the person explain his or her thinking and give time to ask questions. Be aware there may be opposition to the topic and be prepared to answer questions, if asked.
Ask for action
If you are asking the elected official to do something, such as to co-sponsor a bill or support a program, make sure you ask. Otherwise, it is just an informational meeting to the elected official.

Meeting With Agency Officials

The importance of visiting funding agencies and learning about their priorities cannot be overstated, but a visit will be more successful if you have done the necessary groundwork before you visit and if you follow up on what you have learned after the visit.

If you are a researcher, the goal of a visit is to learn about what the agency can offer you – such as possible funding opportunities – and also for the agency to learn what expertise you can offer them. Important outcomes of a visit might include invitations to serve on a proposal review panel, committee or task force. These are very valuable opportunities and you should take advantage of them.