In a recent blog post, we heard from CJ O’Hara, a Chicago-based advocate with lived experience, about resources and other ideas for those getting started in affordable housing advocacy. In particular, CJ mentions the importance of ensuring your voice is heard by communicating directly with members of Congress. But doing so can seem a little overwhelming to new advocates. How do you even go about getting in touch with a congressperson? In this post, we overview four easy methods of direct advocacy: (1) emails; (2) physical letters; (3) phone calls; and (4) face-to-face meetings.


Emails are the simplest way to make your voice heard. Unlike physical letters, emails don’t have to go through a lengthy security process before they reach a congressperson, and they’re preferred by many congressional staffers because they can be archived and organized easily. On the other hand, the simplicity of sending an email means that congressional offices receive tens of thousands of them every month, so advocates should focus on crafting emails that are as engaging as possible. One way to do this is through storytelling: by combining your own personal story with facts and figures, you can add emotional weight to your message while personalizing it in a way that’s more likely to be remembered by the reader.

NLIHC makes it easy to email your members of Congress through its Legislative Action Center. Click on the policy priority you want to contact your congressional offices about, enter your contact information to identify your members of Congress, personalize the email template, and click send! You can also increase the likelihood that your email has an impact by sending it directly to the particular staff who work on housing issues. If you can’t find their email address, email NLIHC’s Field Team at to ask for help.


Many new advocates believe that sending a physical letter is one of the best ways to communicate with an elected official. It’s not – at least not anymore. These days, physical letters must pass through complicated, time-consuming security processes that delay their delivery, making them entirely unsuitable for advocacy involving any amount of urgency.  Yet physical letters can be used to advocate for long-term, less time-sensitive policy goals. As with emails, make sure to craft a rhetorically compelling letter and mail it to the right staff person. Also note that unlike emails, addressing physical letters requires using these standardized address blocks:


The Honorable [full name of official]

ATTN: Housing Staffer

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

House of Representatives

The Honorable [full name of official]

ATTN: Housing Staffer

United States House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Phone Calls

With the exception of face-to-face meetings, there’s no more direct way to make your voice heard than through a phone call. Like emails and physical letters, calls are most effective when they’re directed to the right person, so make sure you ask to speak to the housing policy staff at your congressperson’s office. Always make sure to identify yourself as a constituent and mention where you live, and have ready the names and bill numbers of any legislation you intend to advocate for. Calls are most effective when placed a few days before a vote takes place and in combination with other calls, so think about planning a call campaign with other advocates. To ensure consistency in messaging, consider creating a script that can be used (and modified) by all callers.

You can usually find the right phone numbers on your congressperson’s website. If you can’t find a number on their website, you can always call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to the congressperson’s office.

Face-to-Face Meetings

Face-to-face meetings are still the gold standard when it comes to advocacy. But in-person meetings are also the most daunting for new advocates. They shouldn’t be, though: think of such meetings simply as conversations. As an advocate, you’re not expected to be an expert on housing policy or to have all the answers. Your job is just to relate your experiences and your thoughts about problems and solutions. Approaching a meeting as a conversation about issues important to you can reduce some of the apprehension many feel going into their first face-to-face meeting and make scheduling such meetings easier to do.

However, while the meeting may be a conversation, it’s still one you need to carefully plan for. In general, planning and executing an effective meeting involves several different steps. These include (1) scheduling the meeting; (2) crafting your agenda and your talking points; (3) creating written materials to leave behind; (4) ironing out logistics; (5) conducting the meeting; (6) and following up afterwards to thank them and to continue building a relationship with their office. Note that only one of these steps involves the actual meeting – the other five all deal with preparation or follow-up. You can find a detailed guide to each of these steps in “Advocacy and Lobbying Tips for Communities and Beyond,” an article published in NLIHC’s Advocates’ Guide 2023.

For additional advice about how to get started as an affordable housing advocate, reach out to the NLIHC housing advocacy organizer for your region.