Organising a petition

Petitions can be very powerful campaign tools if they are done well. The key to success is marketing your petition widely and persuasively.

Keep your petition introduction concise and ensure your first paragraph explains clearly what the petition hopes to achieve. Prospective supporters often don't have a lot of time to read unnecessarily wordy introductions. Once you have written the petition, make sure that you take the time to edit and spell-check it carefully; your petition will be taken more seriously if it is written professionally and error-free.

Collecting signatures for petitions is usually done both online and in person. Using two different approaches will help you get the widest support for your cause.

How to get the most signatures on your petition

If you have created a website for your campaign the first thing you should do is write an update for your page announcing the opening of the petition and place a prominent link to it from your home page.

You can market your petition by emailing its web address to everyone you know, asking them to support iy and to share with their friends as well.

Search online to find forums that are relevant to your cause. You might find a forum that is geographically specific to your area like a local community forum, or perhaps one for like-minded people, such as parents with primary school-aged children. Once you have found a forum that you think is suitable, post a link to your petition, telling them a little about your campaign and asking people to take a look. Make it personal and polite so that people don’t take offence or think that you are spamming them.

As well as online forums, you can market your petition on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter (as mentioned earlier). You can also search social networking sites for groups with similar interests or a similar geographical location, if your campaign is place-specific. You can market your petition on these too.

If you are a member of a social networking site, you can let all your friends (followers/subscribers) know that you have set up a petition and ask them to support it. It can be really effective to ask your social network friends to pass on information about your petition to their friends too by copying and pasting your message into their status update or retweeting it if they are on Twitter. This can create a cascade effect that helps you reach a lot more people.

The traditional method of paper petitioning can also be very useful and shouldn’t be neglected. Speaking to people face-to-face can create a greater level of support and commitment for your petition and people may be more inclined to go and tell their friends to support it too. Talk to everyone you know. You could set up a stand in the local town centre (with permission) or at a community event to collect signatures and raise awareness about the campaign. Talk about it in the office, at home or at any club you may go to – and always carry your petition with you for people to sign. You can also put up paper petitions at the local library, on noticeboards or even in local shops if the manager agrees to help the cause. Do remember to keep a note of everywhere you have put a petition and go back regularly to collect them! And don’t forget that your paper petition should include details of your online campaign and websites as well.