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 tell the reader why they should take action now.

Now, let’s walk through two examples!

“Issue Introduction” Action Alert

E-mail Subject Line

Ex. The gift that keeps on giving

Dear [NAME],

The first five years of a child’s life are key.

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.

That’s when they’re developing vital skills—from walking and speaking to choosing healthy habits and understanding social interactions. And a healthy childcare environment plays an important role in that development process. Unfortunately, there isn’t a standard in place across [STATE] to ensure that our children have a solid environment that facilitates healthy development. But, we’re not the only ones to face this issue, and areas across the country have stepped up to ensure all children are setup with the building blocks for a lifetime of health and success. [LINK TO INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES]

Early care and education standards ensure our children have access to plenty of active play, limited screen time, and healthy snack and meal options. These healthy lifestyle choices are instrumental as children develop—physically and mentally—but they also reinforce healthy habits that will help prevent disease and obesity throughout their lifetime.

It’s safe to say that healthy early childcare programs are the gifts that keep on giving.

Be sure to mention your state or local community so your advocates feel connected to the issue.

But we must work together—caregivers, parents, elected officials—to ensure [STATE] day care, preschools, and other care settings are set up to provide a solid health foundation that families can continue to build upon.

Include a hyperlink here to give people another opportunity to get involved and clearly articulate your call-to-action.

Join our cause today to learn more about how you can help give all children in [STATE] the building blocks to a healthy life. [WEBSITE/ACTION PAGE]

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 standards for healthy early childcare environments, 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 local 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 “set the standard for childcare” refers to a specific bill. For example, if there’s a bill being debated in the legislature that would prevent statewide early care standards from setting nutrition and active play guidelines, and you urged supporters to contact their legislators with the message to help establish standards for early care programs, that would be viewed as lobbying. But if the message does not clearly reference a bill currently under consideration, then it would not be lobbying. Similarly, your message could say “tell the Department of Health to support statewide standards for early childcare centers”—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. Let’s set the standard for [STATE] kids!

Dear [NAME],

Healthy eating, active play and limited screen time are the three necessary building blocks our children ages 0-5 need in order to develop healthy habits that will stay with them for life.

Include statistics and research to show how this issue has a detrimental impact on your community.

Yet, [STATE] has no state-wide standards for early care and education centers, where 60% of children in this age group spend their time each week. This is strange, because  parents and caregivers as well as early care providers agree that there should be consistency in how our children are taught about the best ways to integrate these key elements into their routines during this key developmental period.

Be sure to include hyperlinks and visuals to draw your reader’s attention and get them to click-through to learn more.

If we ensure that all early childcare centers have these standards, we’re effectively providing a healthy environment for every child in daycare—regardless of neighborhood, socioeconomic status, or other factors. [ACTION PAGE/WEBSITE]

And every child deserves a healthy environment to grow in and a fresh start at achieving lifelong health. It’s time our policymakers get on board in creating these standards for kids in our communities!

Reference that we can work together to resolve this issue, but that we also need our elected officials to be involved in creating change as well.

We as parents, caregivers, and community leaders can make this happen, but we need the support of our elected officials. The next step is simple—join us in calling on our legislators to set the standard for childcare in [STATE]. [ACTION PAGE/WEBSITE]

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,