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Write Your Own Action Alerts

Action alerts are direct messages, or calls-to-action, that you can send by e-mail, letter, or even Facebook, in order to 1) educate residents in your community about your issue, 2) provide them with the opportunity to take action, and 3) put your advocates in direct touch with local legislators to prompt policy change.

We’ve included two different examples of action alerts below, an “Issue Introduction” alert and a “Contact Your Legislator” alert, to guide you through the process of writing your own. Before we get started, here are a few general tips to keep in mind:

  • Consider who is the right sender or messenger for your action alert. Recipients may be more likely to take action on behalf of the issue if they see the sender as integral to solving the issue, a person of influence who is directly connected to the cause, or perhaps someone who is personally impacted by the issue the policy is addressing.
  • Subject lines determine whether someone opens your message, so make sure to keep them short, include a sense of urgency, and provide a preview of your message to tap into the reader’s curiosity. There are free resources online that will help test how likely your subject line is to be seen as spam.
  • Include a brief background or update on your campaign to reinforce your goals and help your advocates understand your cause. Creating a sense of understanding will connect your audience to your campaign and encourage them to take a specific action, like signing a petition or reaching out to decision makers.
  • Include the state, town, county, or school district in the subject line and the body of the message to make the message more relevant for your audience.
  • Consider the story arch and narrative flow of your message to clearly identify the issue, how your campaign is working to resolve it, and how the reader can get involved. Include stats, links to outside resources or a website where readers can go to find out more information or take action in follow up to your message.

Now, let’s walk through two examples!

“Issue Introduction” Action Alert

E-mail Subject Line

Ex. YOU Can Improve the Health of [COUNTY]‘s Kids

This is a good place to mention your state or local community, so your advocates feel connected to the issue.

Dear [NAME],

When it comes to a good education, safety and physical activity play a major part.

It’s true: studies have shown that children who stay active tend to perform better in the classroom, and walking or biking to school can be one of the easiest ways to help kids stay moving. But in [STATE], parents are hesitant to allow their children to walk or bike to school and for good reason: our cities and towns are built for cars and buses, not walking and biking. There are simply no safe routes for children to get to school.

But this can change with a Safe Routes to School program.

Include a link to your informational resources, organization website, blog, or sign-up sheet. If someone is interested in your cause, give them the opportunity to get involved right away.

Safe Routes to School programs will reshape the landscape of our neighborhoods for the better. They’ll make sidewalks and biking lanes that are safe for children on the way to school, and for everyone who wants to use them to get to work, the grocery store, or to be active. They also incorporate safety training for our children at a young age, so they learn how to “look both ways” and stay safe on the journey to school.

We’re working to bring Safe Routes to School programs to [STATE/CITY/REGION]—for the health, safety, and education of our children and the benefit to every community in [STATE CITY/REGION]. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more about Safe Routes to School, including opportunities to get involved. We hope you’ll join us in helping to reshape [STATE/CITY/REGION] for the better. Learn more at [LINK TO INFORMATION].

If you’re the leader of your campaign, include your name here. If someone else is the main point of contact, and you’re writing this action alert on behalf of a larger group, make sure to include that person’s name and/or the name of your organization. If you are using someone else’s name, be sure to have them review the text and provide you with their approval before the message is sent.

Sincerely,
[ORGANIZATION LEADER OR MAIN POINT OF CONTACT]

“Contact Your Legislator” Action Alert

If legislative change is needed to create more support for Safe Routes programs in your area, then be sure to reach out to your elected officials to educate them about your cause and tell them how they can be involved. Use this kind of action alert to empower your advocates to send letters to their representatives about a specific bill (lobbying) or to support your cause in general (non-lobbying).

If there is a bill pending in the legislature, then the following action alert would be grassroots lobbying because it is a communication to the public that reflects a view on specific legislation and includes a call-to-action. If there is no pending bill and the email is simply asking legislators to support a sensible policy, then it would not be lobbying and you could use non-lobbying dollars to pay for all related costs.

Be sure to check out the Lobbying vs. Non-Lobbying Checklist for full guidelines.

Create a sense of urgency in your subject line to spark immediate action, and include the state or local community to make the message more personal.

E-mail Subject Line

Ex. [STATE/COMMUNITY] kids need our help now!

Reference that we can work together to resolve this issue, but that we also need our elected officials to be involved in creating change as well.

Dear [NAME],

Did you know that the number of children who walk or bike to school decreased from 50% to just 13% between 1969 and 2009? Meanwhile, the number of children in the United States who are at an increased risk for developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease has tripled since 1963. Coincidence? We don’t think so.

That’s why we’re asking [STATE]’s lawmakers to support Safe Routes to School so kids can safely walk and bike to school. Our children need safe, easy, and fun opportunities to build physical activity into their everyday lives, and when leaders prioritize the funding to build the infrastructure (streets and sidewalks) and safety education programs for children to walk or bike to school, that’s exactly what they get.

Will you send a letter to your lawmakers, asking them to protect our children on the way to school? [LINK TO ACTION]

It’s simple, fast, and could save lives. A recent study of Safe Routes to School projects in New York City found that census tracts with Safe Routes to School programs saw a 44% decline in school-aged pedestrian injury during school travel hours, while locations without Safe Routes to School interventions stayed the same.

We want to see the same improvements in [STATE]!

Don’t forget that Safe Routes to School programs are not just for children—everyone benefits. They take an unsafe landscape, where few people walk or bike, and turn it into a place that is safe and fun, allowing opportunities for people to connect over physical activity.

Safe Routes to School programs: when our kids have safe routes and are able to bike or walk to school, they’re more eager and ready to learn, they are healthier, and our streets are safer. Tell your lawmaker today! [LINK TO ACTION]

If you’re the leader of your campaign, include your name here. If someone else is the main point of contact, and you’re writing this action alert on behalf of a larger group, make sure to include that person’s name and/or the name of the organization you represent. If you are using someone else’s name, be sure to have them review the text and provide you with their approval before the message is sent.

Thank you,

[ORGANIZATION LEADER OR MAIN POINT OF CONTACT]