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How To Create a Good Petition

A good petition is the foundation of a good campaign. If a petition is not clear and well presented, then people will not want to sign it. To create a good petition, you should:

Set an Achievable Goal

A realistic, achievable advocacy goal will make it easier for people to sign onto your petition. Having too many goals, or trying to do too much with one petition, can make it hard to communicate your point and may confuse people.

Also, aim for an optimistic, but realistic number of signatures. For example, aiming for 1,000,000 signatures is probably too ambitious.

Select an Effective Target

A target is a person, position, or organization that can make your advocacy goal happen. If that person/organization refuses to change, then consider those who might influence him/her/them. Possibilities include:

  • Local or national legislators
  • City or community officials
  • Local media
  • Local or national businesses
  • International entities, such as the U.N.

Show People How Your Cause Impacts Them

As a result, they will be more likely to take action. Also, when your issue is in the news, take advantage of the fact and gather signatures as quickly as you can.

Write a Clear, Concise, and Compelling Petition Summary

A compelling petition summary contains the following:

  • Call to action: Tell people right away why they are signing, within the first or second sentence.
  • Background information: Provide one or two sentences of background information.
  • Supporting facts: If it makes sense, include a short list of 2–3 facts supporting your petition's appeal. You should assume most people don't have the time to read all your information, so be brief.
  • Final call to action: One sentence restating your call to action.
  • Additional information: If you want to include more detailed background information, do so at the bottom, or include a link to more information.
  • Include an image: Select a compelling image that speaks to the heart of your issue. Pictures with people or animals looking at the reader are often most effective. Most people are turned off by graphic images; try not to use them.
  • DON'T FORGET TO SPELLCHECK! A poorly written petition filled with spelling and grammar mistakes will take away from the credibility of your petition.

Write an Effective Letter to Send to Your Target

To write an effective letter, consider the following:

  • Be polite: Don't attack your target and put them on the defensive. They won't listen to your petition unless you are polite and respectful.
  • Make your purpose clear: Be sure to state what you want the target to do at the beginning of the letter.
  • Provide details: Tell your target why you want them to do this, and support your statement with facts. However, don't make the letter too long, or your target won't read it.
  • Proofread and SPELLCHECK: You want to look professional. Typos will keep your target from taking you seriously.
  • Make sure you're sending it to the right person: You don't want to do all the work and then find out that your target has nothing to do with the decision-making process for your issue.

Example Petition

See how all these elements come together in a finished petition. Note that a successful petition communicates clearly. If your petition can do that, it has a much greater chance at success.

See this petition in action: Stop Cargill from Building on SF Bay

Example Petition