What should I write?

This is the most common question we get at Vote Forward—and we’re here to help! Our guidance centers on our shared mission of increasing voter turnout. We draw from behavioral science research, our own experimentation on messaging, and feedback from letter recipients to help volunteers craft compelling stories.

Generally, messages that are positive, heartfelt and personal, and nonpartisan work best.

Why positive?

We say positive not to dismiss real challenges in our world, but rather to focus on voting as a positive, meaningful experience. Messages that generate excitement about voting help motivate letter recipients to cast a ballot.

Why heartfelt and personal?

In 2021, our team conducted an experiment as part of our Vote Forward Labs initiative in which we learned that letters with “personal story” messages, written by trained volunteers, may be especially motivating for voters. Writing a short story (1-3 sentences) about a personal experience—either from you or someone you know—shows how voting affects real people's lives and can be especially motivating.

Remember: You may be writing to voters who have a different perspective than you, but even if they live in a different community or care about different issues, they can still relate to the emotions and values you bring up in your personal note. Here’s an example:

“I vote because I want my representatives to take action to protect our environment. I almost had to evacuate my house last summer because a wildfire was burning just a couple of miles away. In the past few years I've lived here in California, these fires have been getting bigger and scarier, and sometimes I can't even leave my house because the air is so thick with smoke. It makes me feel glad to see that my representative in Congress is taking action against these climate-related disasters, so that future generations won't have to feel the same fear that I did.”

Why nonpartisan?

Get-out-the-vote (GOTV) research has shown that nonpartisan messaging is more effective than partisan messaging for boosting voter turnout.

That said, we ask that volunteers do not:

  • Mention candidates by name
  • Mention political parties
  • Frame their overall message in a partisan or one-sided fashion
  • Assume that the recipient agrees on specific issues or policies

It’s fine to mention issues that matter to you, especially within the context of a personal story, just be careful not to assume the recipient agrees with your specific policy preferences (e.g. stay away from mentioning the bill you think Congress should pass).

From several years of hearing from letter recipients, we’ve received feedback about what resonates and what doesn’t. Here are some more tips:

  • Avoid time-sensitive mentions: Specific references to policies, news events, or voting methods can become outdated by the time a person receives their letter in the mail. Stick with topics most people will agree on like quality healthcare, good schools, and clean air and water.
  • Avoid framing voting as an obligation: Messages about voting because it's “your right” or “civic duty” do not typically resonate with the voters on Vote Forward's lists. Recipients will be more excited about voting in order to express their opinions or make change, rather than voting as an obligation.
  • Don’t shame non-voters: Messages about "always voting" or "never missing an election" can have the unintended consequence of making recipients feel discouraged instead of encouraged about voting. We are intentionally writing to people who we know don’t vote in every election, so we don’t want to make them feel ashamed about their level of participation.

Instead of this…say that!

  • I want to be part of a blue wave. → I want to be part of a movement for change.
  • I vote because it’s my civic duty as an American. → I want my voice to be heard, every vote counts, and I love the feeling of being a part of my community.
  • I want Democrats to win a majority in the Senate. → I want representation for all of us.
  • We need to elect representatives who will ban fracking. → I have seen the impacts of fracking in my home state, and because of that, I feel strongly we need representatives who will pay attention to our health and well-being.

Still looking for inspiration? Here are some more example messages:

  • "I believe voting matters because in the operating room after my son was born, his mom and I promised him that we’d do everything we could to build a better world for him. His generation faces so many challenges, from school shootings to a deeply divided society. I vote to keep my promise to our son that we’ll elect leaders who will build a better world for him to grow up in."
  • "I vote because I’ve had asthma since I was a kid, and I know that if I'm ever between jobs, I'll only be able to get insurance because the law protects people like me with pre-existing conditions. I want to elect candidates who support these policies that have been important to me and so many of my loved ones."
  • "I vote because I want my kids, my community, and everyone to have a better life. I believe that voting is the most powerful and peaceful way to make that happen. I hope you will join me and others in this important election and be a voter."
  • "I vote because when I was a kid, my father—an immigrant and U.S. Army veteran—taught me that each voter is an essential ingredient in the recipe for a healthy democracy. Today, I believe Dad's lesson more than ever. I love voting!"

For more support on crafting an impactful personal story for your letters, please see our volunteer training exercise.

When you're happy with the "I vote because" message you've crafted and are ready to write, please visit your dashboard. You can write letters for the featured campaign or click the View all active campaigns link to see other options.