The Boom: Capitol Hill's Huge Increase in Mail. Are You Prepared?

What a difference a decade makes. A recent study shows that Congressional offices are receiving between 200 to 1,000 percent more constituent communications than they were ten years ago. Because of the increase, staff report that their offices are shifting resources to manage the increased demand — and that congressional offices have seen no increases in personnel in the last three decades. “I don’t know any industry in the world that could absorb as much as a ten-fold increase in customer interest and a zero increase in labor to support it,” said Bradford Fitch, President and CEO of CMF. “Under the circumstances, most congressional offices are doing the best job they can in just keeping up with the increasing volume,” he said.

A few other interesting findings from the report, “How Citizen Advocacy Is Changing Mail Operations on Capitol Hill,” which was released earlier this month.

  • Senate offices reported a 548 percent increase in mail volume since 2002.
  • House offices reported a 158 percent increase.
  • An increasing number of congressional offices are answering incoming email with an email response, rising from 37 percent in 2005 to 86 percent in 2010.
  • A majority of staff report they spend more time on constituent communications than two years ago (58 percent).
  • Forty-six percent report shifting resources to manage increased volume.
  • If an office has previously prepared a response to a constituent inquiry, 41 percent of staff estimates it requires more than a week to respond. If a new policy statement or text is required, 42 percent report it can take more than three weeks for the office to respond.
  • While senior managers and staff primarily responsible for answering the mail agree on the top three challenges to quickly responding to constituent communications, they do not agree on the most significant problem. Senior managers state that the mail volume is the biggest challenge (35 percent). Mail staffers report that “the review and approval process” is the biggest obstacle (41 percent).

We want to know: How are you handling the increase in mail from 2, 5 or even 10 years ago?

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