Tips and guides
Set a goal and find your decision maker
Set a goal: Your first step is to think of a goal that is achievable and specific. Rather than calling on the government to “Stop Climate Change”, pick a concrete outcome that would help achieve that goal - introducing a carbon tax, for example, or banning the import of oil from tar sands.
Choose a decision maker: Find out who has the most power to deliver the changes you’re asking for and address your petition to them. Is it your local council, or maybe you need a change in policy from a government minister? It’s a good idea to be as specific as you can - this holds your decision maker accountable and makes it harder for them to shift responsibility onto others.
Writing your petition
Title: Your title is the first thing people will see, so make it short, specific and to the point - that way, they’re more likely to want to find out more about your petition. If your petition focuses on a particular place, include that in the title too - e.g. “Keep our London libraries open”
Explaining why it matters: This is where you make your case for why other people should be signing your petition. Describe the problem, why it matters and what you want to do about it. It’s often really effective to include a personal story too - have you or someone you know been directly affected by what you’re campaigning about? If you can include links to articles or research about your issue, all the better.
Writing the letter to your decision maker: Here’s where you make your case - outline the issue, why it matters and what you want the decision maker to do about it. Keep it short, to the point, and polite - if your petition is rambly or too long it’s likely to get ignored. Think of your petition letter as the start of a conversation with your decision maker.
Share your petition
Social media: Facebook and Twitter are great places to spread the word about your petition - for every person that shares your campaign, around 100 others on average will see it. Multiply that even by a few hundred and that’s a lot of people reading your petition. What’s great is that Facebook and Twitter also make it really easy for people who come across your petition to share it on - this can really help campaigns spread and grow rapidly.
Emailing friends and family: Email is a good way to reach people who might not use Facebook or Twitter regularly. Don’t be afraid to make your email personal and show how much you care about the campaign - people are more likely to take a look at your petition if they know it means a lot to you.
Get your supporters involved
Encourage them to share: Getting your supporters sharing your petition through Facebook, Twitter and email is key to spreading the word about your campaign and growing your petition. Send them an email asking them to share and explaining that they can really make a difference to the campaign by doing so. Remember, the chances are that a lot of the people who’ve signed your petition will care about the issue as much as you do - so they’ll be just as motivated to help make the campaign a success.
Harnessing campaign events and milestones: Have you just reached 5,000 signatures? Or maybe your issue got some important press attention? Significant events in your campaign are a great opportunity to revitalise your supporters. Drop them an email letting them know what’s happening and asking them to build on this momentum by sharing the petition again.
Beyond the internet
Getting publicity: Local media coverage can give your campaign a real boost. If your petition is about a local issue, email or call up the local newspapers to ask if they want to write an article about your campaign. Be sure to include details of where people can get more information and sign the petition.
Gathering signatures offline: You don’t have to just limit yourself to growing your petition online. There are plenty of opportunities to gather signatures offline - you could take a copy of your petition to work or go door-to-door around your neighbourhood. This has the added bonus of being able to reach people who might not use or have access to the internet.
Organising events: Publicity events are a great way to get attention for your campaign. You could stage a march or get in touch with a local venue about running a publicity gig. The possibilities really are endless - let your creativity run wild!
Planning your petition hand-in
When is the right moment? It’s often tricky to know when it’s the right time to deliver your petition. Sometimes this decision is made for you - there might be a key deadline around your issue coming up for example. Otherwise, look out for opportunities when handing in your petition might have maximum impact - if your issue is getting a lot of media coverage for example. Remember, you don’t only get one chance to deliver your petition - you can keeping handing it in as your campaign grows.
In person vs. by email: It’s always an option to deliver your petition by email or post, but if possible it’s great if you can deliver your petition in person. This is because you can use the hand-in event to help create publicity and maximise the impact of your petition. It also gives you a great opportunity to speak to your decision maker in person. The more people there the better, so invite your supporters to come along. And if you’re doing your hand-in in a public place, a publicity stunt is often a great way to raise awareness about your campaign - have a look at this example from the "Save our NHS" campaign.
Contacting your decision maker
Be persistent: You might want to make first contact by email, but if you don’t hear back within a couple of days don’t be afraid to chase them up on the phone. If you don’t get an answer, keep trying until you do - don’t let your campaign go to waste because your decision maker missed your call. Be persistent, but don’t go over the top - remember you want your conversation to start on the right foot!
What to say: Clearly and concisely explain your concerns, tell them about your petition and set out what changes you would like them to make. If you’re planning to deliver your petition in person, let them know when you’ll be coming to do the hand-in and ask if they can be there to receive your petition and discuss it with you. Remember, always be polite - don’t give them any excuses to ignore you.
Next steps for your campaign
Follow up with your decision maker: If you get a firm response from your decision maker the first time you speak to them, try to make sure you’ve got it down in writing. If they’ve agreed to make the changes you’re asking for, that’s great - let everyone know about your success, but don’t take your foot off the gas just yet! Make sure you agree on a specific timeline and follow them up regularly to check that progress is being made. It’s possible your decision maker won’t give you an immediate response the first time you speak to them, so don’t let them off the hook - keep following up until they give you a definite answer.
Don’t give up: Your decision maker might not give you the response you want to hear, but don’t give up. A refusal to make the changes you’re asking for doesn’t have to be the end of a campaign. In fact, bad news can often give a campaign a real boost. Go back to your supporters, tell them what’s happened and ask them to help you keep growing your petition until your decision maker has no choice but to deliver the changes you’re asking for. Also be sure to check out other members’ suggestions on the Tips & Guides for more ideas on where to take your campaign next.