Tips for Writing Effective Action Alerts

Online tools are a cost effective way for advocacy groups to mobilize constituents quickly. In 2000, the US Congress received 80 million emails from constituents; in 2001, that number rose to 117 million emails. Now, Congress receives more than 200 million emails per year.


1.    Think like a volunteer, not a lobbyist.

Craft messages that connect with your audience on a personal level and demonstrate the value of taking action.

2.    Subject line is half the battle.

Be straightforward but not boring; clever but not gimmicky.

3.    Clear and concise gets the click.

Messages should be succinct and compelling. Too much information is distracting and lowers the chances that someone will take action.

4.    Target and respect.

Know your audience and customize your messages accordingly.

5.    Powerful individual emails support a strategic vision.

Be aware of how each email reinforces organization’s brand identity, cultivates community, and advances it’s mission.

ONLINE ADVOCACY BEST PRACTICES: Frequency and Timing of Alerts

►    Finding a balance…

  • The dangers of emailing too often
  • People will get tired and annoyed by your emails, and unsubscribe even if they like your content.
  • The dangers of staying quiet too long
  • In order to keep them interested and responsive, activists should be regularly engaged with meaningful information and action opportunities.

►    Finding the right time…

  • Tuesdays through Thursdays are generally the best days of the week to send alerts.
  • Mondays are often filled with meetings. Fridays, most people are focused on the upcoming weekend; and people may not check email as frequently over the weekend.
  • Stay away from the very beginning and very end of the day, if possible.
  • Cluttered in-boxes and diverted attention can depress response.
  • At home, many people check email in the early evening.
  • Regardless of when an alert is sent, try to build in as many days as possible to achieve an optimal response rate.


►    Be aware of any “insider vocabulary.” Use language that is informative yet understandable.

►    Clear and concise. The best alerts are those where the recipient can say, “I understand WHAT I’m supposed to do, WHY I should take action, and WHEN this needs to be done.”

►    Keep in mind your recipient/target audience’s interests when crafting the alert (including subject line) and choosing a persuasive angle. (i.e. What will make the recipients care about this issue? What message will personally resonate with them?)