Sending a congratulatory letter to constituents when they accomplish something noteworthy is a tried-and-true constituent relations strategy. A new service from Merit makes it easy and free for legislators or their staffs to congratulate college students from their districts with no paper, no stamps, and no need to look up addresses.
More than 250 colleges are using Merit to automatically send notifications of campus achievements and activities to each student’s elected state representatives. With Merit’s recent upgrade to its “constituent relations” platform, those elected officials can now use a free Merit account that lets them send congratulatory messages to their student constituents.
“For legislative offices, any help we can get locating constituents worthy of recognition is appreciated,” said Amanda Robertson, chief of staff for Texas state representative Craig Goldman. “I really love that Merit provides these announcements with such specificity. It helps us connect in a way that would otherwise be nearly impossible,” Robertson said.
This fall, legislators in more than 40 states have been notified about the achievements of more than 47,000 student constituents. Since Merit launched these features in mid-November, elected officials have sent thousands of congratulatory messages to students via the Merit platform.
Each legislator receives a weekly email digest that showcases students from his or her district who were recognized that week by their college for achievements like making the dean’s list, studying abroad, earning a scholarship, being inducted into an honor society, and more. A legislator’s free Merit account includes more detailed stories about the success of their constituents, submitted by the colleges each student attends.
Merit streamlines the process for legislators to acknowledge student accomplishments and eliminates the need to track down students’ home addresses and send snail mail letters. Students can choose to display each legislator’s note of congratulations on their own personalized Merit page online, which chronicles their collegiate achievements.
For colleges and universities, delivering personalized stories of student accomplishments directly to each student’s elected state representatives reinforces each institution’s value and impact on a particular district. Personalized stories can humanize issues like state appropriations and funding decisions for financial aid programs, by showcasing the impact on local students.
“Getting our students’ accomplishments in front of lawmakers, especially in the face of dwindling support for public education, is critical,” said Gwendolynne Larson, a communications manager at Emporia State University in Kansas. ESU has recently sent legislators stories about students participating in its theater program, in entrepreneurship competitions, and who were selected to serve as campus ambassadors.
More than 250 colleges already participate in Merit, including small liberal arts colleges like Augustana University, Carleton College, and Wofford College; as well as large public institutions like University of Delaware, Clemson University, Miami University, and San Diego State University.
Legislators can reach out to their contacts in government affairs at any college or university not yet participating and notify them that they want to see stories on Merit Pages about student success from that institution.
Merit will continue to roll out enhancements to its platform for elected officials in early 2017.