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How to Write a Strong Petition (Or Other Online Action Page)

Online petitions and letter writing campaigns are key tools for online organizing. You can use these tools to put pressure on a decision maker, find and recruit new members to join your group, or show the breadth of your supporters.

Of course, not every petition has to put pressure on a decision makeryou can also have a petition that’s core purpose is to find and recruit supporters who care about your issue. For example, you could have a petition for a clean, renewable energy future, and then follow up with the people who sign your petition to come to a meeting on how you get your town to pass a resolution to go 100% renewable.

The tips on this page focus on writing a strong petition and letter writing campaign that does put pressure on a decision maker. Of course, you’ll want to combine a petition with on-the-ground action like a petition delivery or press conference so that your decision maker feels the pressure!

Core Elements of Writing a Strong Petition
  • Have a strong message. A good message is compelling, concise, consistent and controls the frame of the issue. It’s the basis of all of your communications, online and offline. (Need help developing a message? Get help now!)
  • Keep your audience in mind. If you’re trying to get people in your town to sign your petition, then use the messages that will be most compelling to them. Remember that while your neighbors probably aren’t experts in your issue, they do care about your community’s health.
  • Use simple, clear language. Write so that a 3rd grader could understand what you’re saying. Don’t use jargon. Only use one number.
  • Always be recruiting. Be sure to collect all useful information to build your group, including email address, phone number, and cell phone number if you plan to text people later on. See more on recruiting strategy.

Action Network

Action Network is the top online organizing tool we recommend. The samples shown here were made on Action Network. Because you want to use these online actions to build your list at the same time, you want to make sure you can keep all the dataand online petition sites like Change.org don’t let you collect and keep the information on who signs. We can help you get set up on Action Network. Learn more and get started.

 

Petition

A petition is a statement or demand that people sign on to support. The end result is a list of names of people who support your statement or demand. To use a petition to pressure your decision maker, you need to deliver the signatures to them directly. (A press conference is a great way to do that.)

There are two parts of a petition you need to write: the description and the petition itself.

(Note: We’re talking about a standard online petition, which can be used to pressure a decision maker, recruit group members, or both. This is different from an “official” petition, which has specific legal requirements and might be used in special instances.)

Part One: Description

The description simply says why people should sign your petition and how their signature will help the campaign. The description goes on the action page next to where people will sign your petition. It should be short and to the point.

  • First paragraph: Problem
    Describe the problem. What is the threat you are facing or the problem you want to solve?
  • Second paragraph: Impact
    Briefly describe the impact the problem would have. Think about the people you are trying to reach to sign the petition and what speaks to them. Make sure you say who the decision-maker is and why your petition signature matters.
  • Third paragraph: Call to Action
    In the last paragraph, ask people to sign on. Tell them why their signature matters in your campaign. This could be as simple as telling them that their signature will go right to the decision maker.

Example: Petition Description 

Part Two: Petition

A petition can be three simple paragraphs that include your demand.

  • First paragraph: Problem
    Describe the problem. What is the threat you are facing or the problem you want to solve?
  • Second paragraph: Solution
    Paint a picture of the solution. This could be something as simple as the opposite of the problem.
  • Third paragraph: Action
    This is your demandthe action you want your decision maker to take to get from the problem to the solution.

Example: Petition

Letter Campaign

A letter campaign is when you ask people to send emails directly to your decision makers. When people sign on and send a letter, it sends an email in real time. This can be good for getting a decision maker’s attention or submitting comments. (Note: you can send one email to multiple people at once if there are multiple decision makers.)

Letter campaigns are always strongest when supporters personalize the letters themselves. If you’re using Action Network, always check the box allowing supporters to edit letters and encourage them to do so.

There are two parts of a letter campaign you need to write: the description and the letter to be sent to your decision maker.

Part One: Description

The description simply says why people should send a letter to your decision maker. It can be short and to the point.

  • First paragraph: Problem
    Describe the problem. What is the threat you are facing or the problem you want to solve?
  • Second paragraph: Impact
    Briefly describe the impact the problem would have. Think about your audience and what speaks to them.
  • Third paragraph: Call to Action
    In the last paragraph, ask people to send a letter. Include the information about who the letter will go to so people will feel more comfortable clicking send.

Example: Letter Campaign Description

Part Two: Letter Campaign

A letter can be four simple paragraphs that explain your demand.

  • First paragraph: Summary
    At the very top, state what you are asking the decision maker to do. If you are contacting your elected official, let them know you are a constituent.
  • Second paragraph: Problem
    Describe the problem. What is the threat you are facing or the problem you want to solve?
  • Third paragraph: Solution
    Paint a picture of the solution. This could be something as simple as the opposite of the problem.
  • Fourth paragraph: Action
    This is your demandthe action you want your decision maker to take to get from the problem to the solution.

Example: Letter Campaign

Still have questions? Get help now!