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. Healthy options for [TOWN]

This is a good place to mention your state or local community, so your advocates feel connected to the issue.Include a link to your informational resources, organization website,or blog.

Ask any parent, and they’ll agree. Everyone wants healthy options for their children—from nutritious food and drink options to safe transportation routes. Safe walking and biking paths are an essential part of helping kids instill good habits and grow up to be healthy, and while they are becoming a great part of the conversation and planning in our state, we must keep pushing for additional support of these initiatives.

Let’s continue to put our money where our mouth is.

In towns across [STATE], kids don’t have access to crosswalks, sidewalks and bike lanes, making it harder for them to choose the healthy option when getting to school, the park, sports practice, and friends’ houses. Having safe environments to walk and bike open up a world of healthy options for our kids—something that we must be willing to push for.

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.

Every child should have easy and safe access to active transportation options. And sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes to transportation projects can be part of the solution! You can learn more here: [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.

Continued support for these initiatives will keep the momentum rolling, so be sure to visit our site to share why additional funding is a step in the right direction. [LINK]

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more ways to learn about and show your support for safe bike lanes and sidewalks in [STATE]. We hope you’ll join the swell of voices to ensure continued growth toward active and safe transportation options.

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 a tax on sugary beverages, 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 “a sugary drink tax” refers to a specific bill. For example, if there’s a bill being debated in the legislature that would instate a tax on sugary beverages, and you urged supporters to contact their legislators with the message to increase support for that bill, 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 healthy drink options for our children”—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. A healthy solution for [TOWN]

Dear [NAME],

Total health includes more than just nutrition—active options for getting around your town and neighborhood are part of the bigger picture as well.

Our children need us to advocate for safe, active routes to school, the park, friends’ houses, and sports practice. Modeling healthy habits loses its impact when there aren’t active choices for safely walking or biking throughout [CITY/TOWN].

In [STATE] we’re working to ensure that more sidewalks, bike lanes, and other elements of a safe and active community are a part of the ongoing transportation conversations, providing additional options for future generations.

But we can’t stop there.

We need to ensure this remains a priority—as it’s an important component of our children’s overall health and safety. And the best way to do that is by letting our leaders know that this is important.

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.

Take a moment NOW to let our leaders know [LINK TO ACTION SITE] that additional funding for active and safe transportation projects is the gift that will keep on giving and must be a focus moving forward.

In the coming weeks, we’ll share further opportunities to connect with leaders—reminding them that their support will ensure needed funding for creating streets built to share in [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 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,