In This Article:

    Why is a zip code required for almost anything in the Advocacy package?

    In This Article:

      ZIP codes in Advocacy

      There are three major actions in Advocacy (petitions, targeted, and multi-content), and they all require the supporter to provide a zipcode. This section will describe why zipcodes are requiredwhen they are usedhow zipcodes are used; and how to find which targets are associated with each zipcode. When you've finished with this section, you should have clear understanding of zipcodes in Salsa, which will make your life easier when a supporter asks why they can't take action on your campaign.

       

      Why does Advocacy need Zipcodes?

      The shortest answer to this question is "because that's how we target legislators with email." But there are some key facts that must be kept in mind.

      The first key fact is the most important one. Legislators only accept messages from their constituents. Period. All Federal legislators (with one quirky exception) require the constituent to provide a zipcode in his/her district in order to send a message. There is no way around this. If your supporter is not a constituent, then that supporter's message will not get through.

      State legislators are not far behind, and the current trend in technology allows them to use the same kinds of restrictions that the Federal legislators use.

      The second key fact that we need to keep in mind is that legislative districts are drawn using zipcodes. The district where you live or work is defined as the area covered by a list of zipcodes. Sometimes the list is "all of the zipcodes in Alaska", or "the zipcodes for Boone County, Kentucky" or even "a list of zipcodes gerrymandered by the Republicans in the Texas legislature."

      No matter how the the legislative districts are drawn, the result is a set of zipcodes.

      When are Zipcodes Used?

      The zipcode is used in two places in Advocacy: when the supporter wants to use the action and when the action is sent.

      Salsa actions use the zipcode to make sure that the supporter can use the action. Salsa starts by collecting the zipcode (typically ZIP+4). Then Salsa checks to see if the supporter's zipcode is in any of the targeted legislator's districts.

      If the zipcode is in one or more of the targeted districts, then Salsa shows the action. The legislative photos and contact info are shown for every targed legislator that represents the supporter. When the supporter submits the action, salsa sends the supporter to each legislator that represents the supporter. (More on that later.)

      If the zipcode is not in any of the targeted districts, then Salsa displays an error message and the supporter is not allowed to take the action.

      How are Zipcodes Used?

      So far, we've seen that zipcodes are at the center of legislative districts, and that Salsa uses them to determine who can take an an action, and which legislators will actually receive messages. This section will delve into some of the technical details of how zipcodes are used in salsa.

      Zipcodes are stored in the supporter record as a 5-digit zipcode and a 4-digit extension. If the supporter is logged in, then Salsa uses the database record for the supporter to retrieve both parts of the zipcode. If the extension is empty, or if the extension is '0000', then only the first 5 digits of the zipcode are used.

      Zipcodes are used to qualify supporters for actions. This was mentioned above about when zipcodes are used. If the legislative districts are defined in terms of ZIP+4, then Salsa makes every effort to determine the correct ZIP+4 zipcode for the supporter.

      Zipcodes are used to choose legislators for actions. This,too, was mentioned above about when zipcodes are used. When you set up an action, the list of targeted legislators can be just a few (Senators and members of the House for Florida) and the list can be very long (all Senators and House members.) Zipcodes are used to narrow down the targeted legislators to the ones that actually represent the supporter. That means a list of 200-300 targeted legislators will be reduced to 2 or 3 depending on the supporter's zipcode.

      Zipcodes are used to qualify supporters for any restrictions on the action. These restrictions are mandatory constraints that you put on an action, and the zipcode is used for the constraints related to geography.

      How can we find what targets will be used for a particular zipcode?

      Easy! Just visit this Salsa page, enter a zip+4 (there's a link on the page to find the zip+4 for an address), and click

      Summary

      We've learned that almost all legislators will not accept messages from anyone except constituents. Consituents reside in the legislator's districts, and the districts are defined by zipcode. Some districts can be defined with just zipcodes, and others are defined by ZIP+4 zipcodes.

      We've learned that Salsa uses zipcodes when the supporter is starting the action, and then when the action is displayed. The zipcodes are used to restrict supporters who do not qualify for the action. The list of targeted legislators is also restricted to those that actually represent the supporter.

      We've learned that Salsa uses the zipcodes for filter ing supporters and legislators. We also learned that Salsa uses zipcodes when an action as mandatory constraints defined by the person that built the action.

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      Comments

      4 comments
      • Is there a way to allow website users to enter their zip code to find out their member of Congress using Salsa features (without linking to an external site or using an external widget)? Thanks!

      • Hi Emily,

        Great question! We have a tool which allows you to do just that: https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2124/getLocal.jsp

        Thanks to your question, I'm adding that tool to the above documentation. 

      • What about when you're using custom recipients?  Why is a ZIP required then?

      • Monica,

        It shouldn't require a zip code for custom recipients unless one of your custom recipients is set up to require it. That requirement is set on the Targeting Options tab when you create custom recipients:



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