A recent report from the Congress Online Project suggests that our congressional representatives are receiving so much e-mail — 80 million messages last year alone — that they're doing what most people in their position would do: ignoring it.

What's an activist to do? If you need to communicate with Congress, says NetAction, a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting use of the Internet for grassroots citizen action, it's much more effective to do so by phone, fax, or letter. But if e-mail is part of your communication strategy, there are some things you can do to increase its effectiveness:

  • only communicate with senators from your state and representatives from your district;
  • include your home or business address in your message, to make it clear you are a constituent;
  • be brief;
  • identify the subject of your message in the "subject" line;
  • ask your members to "CC" you when they send messages, print the copies, and use them to document the communication.

You can find more tips on e-mail and Internet activism — and subscribe to NetAction Notes, the organization's monthly electronic newsletter — at the NetAction Web site.