In our continuing series about Gold Mouse criteria, this week's topic is about meeting the needs of your constituents online. Every Member office website should answer constituent questions about how the office can assist them with specific federal agency issues. In addition, your website should include information on all of the basic services that congressional offices provide, such as internships, flag requests, and tours. Fortunately, most of the drafting of this content need only be done once, and does not require significant updating unless policies change.
Questions to be answered:
- What services can the Member provide?
- Are all of the various processes constituents can go through with your office explained clearly?
- In addition to explaining how to use a given service, do you also explain why?
- Are explanations provided alongside any forms?
The specifics we look for:
- Online access to the full range of information, services and resources that are requested by constituents offline.
- As much substantive guidance and information as possible so constituents can serve themselves through the website.
- Explanations of forms, what they are for, and what users should do with them, rather than simply posting a PDF.
- FAQ's about the types of casework and specific links to descriptions of the most common problems and solutions.
- Because constituents are not always familiar with what they can ask of their Member of Congress, it is just as important to describe how or why a constituent can use a service as it is to supply the service itself.
- Other resources that can be included on the Member's website include:
- Tour information and request forms;
- Flag ordering information and request forms;
- Internship application and instructions;
- Service Academy Nomination applications and instructions;
- Grant information; and
- Guidance on scheduling a meeting with the Member or staff.
Award-Winning Example: Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA)
10 Characteristics of an Award-Winning Member Website: