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Write Your Own Action Alerts

What’s an Action Alert?

Action alerts are messages that spur your advocates and the general public to get involved with your campaign. Whether by e-mail, a letter, phone call, or even on Facebook, action alerts can be used to accomplish a variety of goals: 1) To educate residents in your community about your issue; 2) To strengthen advocates’ engagement with your campaign; or 3) To put your advocates in direct touch with public officials 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:

  • Know your audience! This will help you determine the appropriate frame, tone, activation, and messenger for your alert.
  • 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 as well as other key metrics. www.subjectline.com is one option, but do an online search to find the one that is right for you.
  • Make sure to include the name of the person you’re contacting. Depending on how you are sending your message, this may need to be done manually, or through a merge field from your online contact database.
  • Include a brief background or update on your campaign to reinforce your goals and help your advocates understand your cause. Creating a base level 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.
  • Clear action links should be included in your message. Using bolded text and call-out boxes can help draw readers’ attention to the goal.
  • Include the state, town, or county in the subject line and/or body of the message to make the message more relevant for your audience.
  • Consider the story arc 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. Strategically include compelling statistics, links to resources, and clear calls-to-action to help tell a story.

Problem, Solution, Urgency! Write your action alert in a way that first highlights the problem, then offers a solution and tells the reader why they should take action now.

Now, let’s walk through two examples!

“Issue Introduction” Action Alert

Include language that makes your piece urgent and relevant geographically for the reader, whether it’s town, city, or state.


E-mail Subject Line

Ex. YOU Can Improve Food Access in [COUNTY/STATE]

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.

Dear [NAME],

In neighborhoods across the country, it’s easier to buy grape soda than it is to buy grapes. Today’s the day we start changing that. [ACTION LINK]

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

For 29.7 million people living in America, access to “the basics”— like fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, seafood, and lean meats—is difficult at best and impossible at worst. Without a grocery store in their neighborhoods, people are forced to rely on diets made up of fast food, chips, candy, and other heavily-processed foods that don’t help children grow up strong or adults stay healthy.

Every family in [COUNTY] should have easy access to healthy food. And healthy food financing can help. Learn about healthy food financing today! [LINK TO INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES]

Be sure to include multiple opportunities for your readers to click through to the action or relevant website to learn more and get involved.

Healthy food financing programs are policy initiatives that help bring healthy foods to neighborhoods across the country. Improving access to healthy food financing brings a triple benefit to communities: revitalized economy, job creation, and better health! A program like this could help families in [STATE] too—click here to learn how. [LINK TO INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES]

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more about healthy food financing, including opportunities to get involved. We hope you’ll join us [LINK TO INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES] in helping to bring healthy food choices to neighborhoods across [STATE].

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.

Thank you,


“Contact Your Legislator” Action Alert

If legislative change is needed to create more support for healthy food access 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 legislators either 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 general policy—then it would not be lobbying and you may use VFHK non-lobbying dollars to pay for all related costs.

The following action alert would be non-lobbying unless it’s clear that “ensure access to healthy food” refers to a specific bill. For example, if there’s a bill being debated in the legislature that would increase healthy food access in food deserts, and you urged supporters to contact their legislators with the message to increase state-wide access, that would be viewed as lobbying. But if the message does not clearly reference a bill, then it would not be lobbying. Similarly, your message could say “tell your legislator to urge the expansion of access to healthy food sources”—that would not be lobbying because it refers to administrative action, not to legislation.

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. We need healthy food access in [STATE] now!

Make it specific that you are asking the advocates at this time to contact their elected officials in order to bring change to their community.

Dear [NAME],

Millions of people around the country—many of them children—don’t have access to the affordable, healthy food that our bodies need to stay well. It’s time to change that.

You can help bring healthy food to counties across [STATE], create jobs, and revitalize [STATE]’s economy, too—by speaking out for access to healthy food, new supermarkets, and new jobs. We need you to tell your legislator to support this vital issue, today.

Join us in the fight to increase access to healthy food. Click here to contact your state representative to take action. [LINK TO ACTION]

Everyone deserves easy access to the foods that will keep them living long, healthy lives, and sensible food policies can help make that happen. Contact your representative today! [REPEAT 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,