The truth behind “Contact your congressman!”

One of the best, most informative parts of Turk Pipkin’s new film, “One Peace at a Time,” is his interview with U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who represents part of Austin and seven counties southeast of Austin.

After traveling the world to see the true impact of organizations like Austin-based charities, The Miracle Foundation and A Glimmer of Hope, Pipkin sat down with Congressman Doggett to ask about the often-heard call-to-action, “Contact your congressman.” He wanted to know if that was actually effective.

I don’t remember Doggett’s exact words, but the impression I got was that Doggett finds these absolutely effective – but only if your communication is sincere and meaningful.  Doggett said the reality of those “Contact your congressman” mass emails he receives from auto-generating forms don’t have the impact of well-written email or letter from an individual. And even then, it takes a large number of those more sincere emails for the message to get through.

I liked that he was honest. We can all guess that our congressmen receive a lot of emails, letters, and phone calls from people wanting them to vote a certain way or support a certain bill, and that it’s impossible to heed each of their requests. I also liked that Doggett seemed to put the responsibility on us to make that meaningful connection with our representatives.

Because it is our responsibility. Nonprofits cannot do it all. I’ve heard that a lot lately, from the nonprofit and the government agency communities. Both say that our efforts to change the world have to come through both channels. And it’s important to note that both communities have said this – not in critical ways – but in empowering ways.

I met with the leaders of the Texas  State Employee Charitable Campaign last week about their communication needs for the fall 2009 campaign. The campaign consists of 10,000+ state employees from 10 agencies (like Texas Youth Commission, Comptroller of Public Accounts, Workforce Commission, and others) from all over Texas who gave almost $10 million to charity in 2007. (The Capital Area employees alone gave more than $2 million.) What’s remarkable is that these are people who have chosen civil service to work for the people of Texas and who also choose to support the people of Texas through regular deductions from their paychecks.

I think it was Reuben Leslie of Texas Health and Human Services Commission, who’s been part of the campaign since 2005, who told me, “Nonprofits can’t do it alone. Government can’t do it alone. We have to work together. And we need the people of Texas to support that work.”

We ask a lot from our state agencies and our nonprofit charities and our foundations, and we expect them to read our minds and/or do the caring for us. Whether we write an email to our representative, make a donation, or learn about an important issue in our community, we can show our support for their efforts. Remember, we have the easy part.


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3 Responses

  1. Fabulous post! As someone who contacts her legislators often, I’m glad to know my messages, which I often take significant time to write, are meaningful and can make a difference! You’ve encouraged me to keep on keepin’ on!

  2. Thank you for your post advocating for civic engagement and for your support for A Glimmer of Hope. If I can be of assistance or provide further information on A Glimmer of Hope please don’t hesitate to contact me. I have subscribed to Giving City Austin and look forward to reading your updates.

    Kind regards,

    Jennifer De Guelle

    Jennifer De Guelle • Social Media Coordinator
    A Glimmer of Hope Foundation • Eliminate poverty. Illuminate Lives. • http://www.aglimmerofhope.org
    (512) 328-9944 Ext. 120 • Cell: (512) 963-7090

    3,300+ Water Projects • 330+ Education Projects •170+ Health Projects • 50+ Veterinary projects • 11,000+ Microcredit loans • Over 2.5million lives improved

    Watch us on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/aglimmerofhopeorg

    Follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/aglimmerofhope

    Join us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aglimmerofhope.org

  3. Wow, Jennifer. I’ve long known about Glimmer of Hope. That organization is doing amazing work. I think I already follow all your SM, but I’ll make sure that I do.

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