So you've filled out the latest Planetary Society petition and sent it to your Congressional representatives. Now you’ve received an email from us asking you to call them, and you find yourself thinking how does this work? do I have to argue with someone? how long will this take? does it make a difference?
We're here to tell you that yes, calling can make a difference.
Making a personal phone call is a crucial component of communicating with Congress. People in your district call your Representatives every day, you should be one of them.
A phone call, when done correctly, can have a strong impact on the staffers who do a lot of the work in the office, and your opinions do get recorded and tallied down.
"I viscerally found what I already intellectually knew was the case: the people on the other end of the line are professionals who want to keep their bosses informed about constituent concerns. I hope that whether you are like me, you'll join the effort and take the perhaps-scary but satisfying step of contacting your Congresspeople."
– Andrew Rivkin
How To Be Effective When You Speak to Your Representative
First, do no harm. When you call Congress you are a representative of The Planetary Society and of the movement to properly fund NASA’s Planetary Science division. It is crucial to be polite, positive, and clear in your message.
Ninety-eight percent of the time you will be speak to a staff person in your representative’s office. This is fine. Most of the work in a congressional office is done by dedicated, capable staffers, and they work hard to take into account your opinions when making law.
Here are some tips for when you call your Representative, this will take less than five minutes of your time. Make sure to reference our current advocacy goals before you call.
- Be polite!
- State that you are a constituent and a registered voter (you are registered to vote, right?)
- Ask to speak to a staff member who is responsible for NASA or space policy
- Be concise and clear about why you're calling (e.g. “I’m calling about the proposed cuts to NASA’s Planetary Science program in the President’s budget request”)
- State why the matter is important to you and why you think it deserves their support
- Clearly state your desired outcome by the Representative (“I encourage the Representative to work to restore funds to this effective program”)
- Mention that you’re following up on a previous message that you sent on this issue (if you sent one previously)
- Thank the staffer for their time
Calling your senators and representatives about NASA's budget isn't that bad. In fact, I just took 15 minutes out of my schedule to do it! This is something everyone—scientist or interested Planetary Society Member—can do."
– Kirby Runyon
Kirby Runyon provided a nice example of his experience and the script he used. Take a minute to read that if you're curious.