As I was walking from my car to the grocery story I heard a female voice say, "Excuse me. Do you have a moment to talk about the development plan for Lot 48?" Before I even turned around to see her clipboard, I knew she was asking me to sign a petition. And, for good reason! Petitions can be a powerful force for change.
Advocacy organizations have used petitions for decades. And, to no ones' surprise, the advent of digital advocacy spurred the creation of many online petition platforms. In fact, the White House values petitions so much they created We the People. This online petition platform promises that if a petition garners 100,000 signatures in the first 30 days, the White House promises an official response from the administration. Talk about an advocacy impact!
So, how do you collect that many signatures? How do you harness the power of a petition?
- A successful petition, whether online or offline, begins with a clear mission. Your petition should focus on one specific part of your advocacy. Asking people to sign a petition to cure cancer, while noble, is too broad. A more successful petition could, for example, ask people to sign a petition to dedicate a certain month as a type of cancer awareness month.
- Before you launch the petition, take a moment to consider your goals. Do you want 1,000 signatures or 100,000? You should consider a variety of factors like your community size, your budget, and your overall campaign needs. And if you find yourself exceeding your goal, don't be afraid to increase it! Keep the momentum going by raising the bar.
- After you've crafted your engaging petition, you need to drive advocates to sign. This promotion should happen across all your platforms. From Twitter to emails, leave no platform unturned! You can announce your petition on your blog and included regular updates about the number of signatures on your social media.
- I also recommend making it as easy as possible to share your petition. Many platforms have built in share functionality so a signer can tweet and post about the petition. If you create a custom petition page, make sure you include sample Twitter, Facebook, and email language on your thank you page. This encourages signers to share the petition across their own platforms.
Whether you're aiming for 1,000 signatures or 500,000, you can make a difference with a petition! Here at Digital Advocacy Institute, we are especially excited to see the Sarcoma Alliance tapping into the power of online petitions. This month, they launched a campaign on WhiteHouse.gov to declare July the officially recognized Sarcoma Awareness Month. Sarcoma, a rare disease, affects 14,000 people in the U.S. You can lend your voice to the cause by signing the petition!