Writing a Letter to the Editor
1. Review your local paper’s guidelines for publishing letters to the editor (limits on word count, format and methods to submit for publication). This information can be found online under the "Opinion” section of your paper’s web site.
2. Search for recent coverage of national service, AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, RSVP, etc in your local publications. If you’re responding to a specific editorial or an article, cite the article and immediately explain the value that XX program brings to your community.
3. If you aren’t writing to respond to a specific article, call on the editors to examine the need for support for funding for national service and what potential cuts could mean for the local community.
4. Get right to the point. You won’t be able to say everything you want in a few hundred words. Prioritize 1-2 of the key messages listed below.
5. If possible, convey your key messages using an anecdote about watching someone become more independent, better educated or gain a new skill thanks to a service organization, or about your own experience serving through a local organizations.
6. Let AmeriCorps Alums know if your submission gets picked up! Email ken [at] americorpsalums [dot] org with links to the story so we can share with our network!
As a former AmeriCorps member, I have seen the difference a dedicated group of ordinary citizens can make in their local community. [Insert brief story from your service year]
But now Members of Congress in Washington want to take that power away from Americans who want to serve their country. With a recent vote in the House that would strip funding from AmeriCorps, policymakers are saying that communities don’t need the support from programs like AmeriCorps and people across the country don’t deserve the opportunity to help their neighbors in need. As an AmeriCorps Alum I have seen the effects on both sides of the equation and urge our country’s lawmakers to recognize the value of this vital program for communities across the country.
The bi-partisan leadership that led to the signing of the Serve America Act on April 21, 2009 is still needed, to support funding and opportunities for a generation that wants to serve. Please support the work that service has positively impacted in our community – and support National service for our future.
Key Messages You Can Include
- In 2011, there were 582,000 applications for 82,000 AmeriCorps slots, up from 536,000 last year. That means over one million applications to serve our country were rejected over the course of the last two years, with many applicants coming from demographic groups with historic unemployment rates, including young adults and minorities. Today, it is nearly as hard to get into AmeriCorps as it is an Ivy League college.
- Local governments rely increasingly on service organizations to fill the gaps in services they can no longer afford to provide on their own.
- Yet as demand for services expands, 89% of nonprofits report experiencing significant economic stress as financial and staff resources dwindle. At the very time when they are needed most, many nonprofits are cutting back on the services they provide and are in jeopardy of closing their doors.
- National service leverages public dollars into maximum positive outcomes for the local community.
- Competitive bids for CNCS funds ensure the best use of public dollars.
- These national service participants and volunteers provide low-cost, high-yield "boots on the ground” badly needed in communities throughout the country.
- In today’s jobs crisis, we can’t afford to lose the jobs provided by national service organizations.
Addressing Community Needs
- Helps our country’s global competitiveness and alleviates impacts from the recession by reducing stress on government services.
- The programs supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service provide badly needed human capital to strapped nonprofits - enabling volunteers to tutor and mentor students during the school day, run after-school programs, and assist food banks and other service agencies.
- Local economies are in trouble, communities are in need of immediate assistance, and recent disasters require responses. Through AmeriCorps, hundreds of thousands of Americans are applying to serve, demonstrating their commitment to developing community solutions.
- National service has consistently provided outcomes that benefit the community.
- Service is a tangible and meaningful way for Americans of all ages to share in the responsibility of helping their neighbors through challenging times.
- Throughout the last 20 years, over 775,000 AmeriCorps members have been deployed across the country to tutor and mentor students during the school day, run after-school programs, assist food banks and rebuild communities affected by natural disasters.
- Can we afford to let national service become an unattainable path for millions of Americans who want to serve when communities and families are in such desperate need of their support?