These resources were developed by ActionStation (an independent, crowdfunded, community campaigning organisation in Aotearoa New Zealand) to support community activists with their petitions. Please note that some of this information is specific to the New Zealand parliamentary system and the OurActionStation petition platform. However a number of the steps here will be relevant in other jurisdictions and petition methods. A printer friendly PDF can be downloaded from the box at the bottom of the page.
You’ve started on your campaign journey, launched a petition and got the first wave of signatures. After a week it tends to level off – so how do you continue to build support without a feature on the front page of the NZ Herald?
The following guide has suggestions that will help you think of options. This is a list of tactics, things that will move the campaign forward. It may be one tactic that suits your campaign especially, or a combination of tactics that work together at different times.
🚀 Watch: Getting more signatures training seminar. This online training seminar from Action Station took place on 5 September 2018.
A note on strategy
Your campaign strategy comes from asking those questions that led you to starting a campaign in the first place – what’s wrong? What can be done to fix it? Who can do that? What makes it urgent now?
When thinking of how to get more signatures, it’s good to revisit the goals of the campaign at the same time. What is the campaign aiming for, and when? Having some kind of time limit or time-related events helps for organising events, motivation and targeting. Every campaign is different, with different goals and will go through various phases. You may be successful with 500 signatures, or not successful with 50,000!
Ideas to get signatures
Communicate with the supporters
Think of your supporters, no matter how few, as a group of people who are there to help you. Ask them to take simple effective actions at specific times, such as: sharing the petition to reach the next target; emailing their local MP; share their personal stories; join a Facebook group; come to an event.
Keep them updated with developments. Take them on a journey with the campaign, without bugging them. You can even ask everyone for feedback on what to do next – keep them on the inside.
Within your supporter group there may be one or two (or more) who could help run the campaign, or offer skills or expertise that you need. You won’t know till you ask!
You can email your supporters at anytime using the ‘Email supporters’ function on OurActionStation. For more tips on communicating with supporters go to:
🔥 Go to: Communication and your campaign
🔥 Watch: How to write a great email to your supporters, 38 Degrees (UK)
Check out these examples from other campaigners:
Ask allies & influencers
Are there organisations that can support your campaign by spreading the petition, with the public or their members, or adding their voices?
Many individuals or organisations may help and support the cause if they are asked directly. Also they can reach other networks of people you may not be able to.
At the same time consider whether any toes are being stepped on by working in an issue space where others already are campaigning, and appreciate their efforts.
It’s not so common but New Zealand is a small place – are there any well-known people who will support the cause? When Nigel Latta shared the Open Submission for mindfulness programmes for young people it doubled the number of signatures and gave the campaign a huge boost.
Individuals or organisations may not support directly but give you valuable feedback.
Be active on social media
When you see your campaign issue posted or mentioned on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) comment on it yourself, put a link to your petition and ask your supporters to do the same. For example: Al Fresco Learning, Nature-based play campaign.
Consider a Facebook live event – it’s like a public meeting but online for example: Facebook Live with Carrie from the Māori Party, ActionStation.
Whenever you do an offline activity share it online – take photos, videos and blog posts to make it go further.
Consider setting up a specific Facebook page for supporters where you can update and post regular news, and can also be interactive with an engaged supporter base. It can be used to post great visual content that will be shared with a wider audience bringing people to the campaign and petition.
Eg. Stop Auckland Kindergarten Changes – created a Facebook group after the petition but it then had a life of its own and became the main vehicle for the campaign. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1271697132950299/
Paid Facebook ads – can be used for more long term campaigns as a way to keep the issue in people’s newsfeeds when there isn’t a ‘campaign moment’; or at a very specific time and you want to boost the organic growth when there is a one-off opportunity.
Create your own media
As part of your social media activity you will need to create content. Creating your own content and sharing through different mediums such as blogs or Facebook pages means the tools are in your hands and it’s also a way for you to control the messaging.
Consider these ideas, and find people who can help you do them:
- Write about your issue, get friends to review your work and then submit it to online media sites or blogs;
- Make a short homemade video and put it on Youtube;
- Take photos of supporters holding messages relevant to the campaign and create shareables for social media;
- Create versions of shareable graphics and test different slogans – which ones work best on social media?
Collect physical signatures
- You can download the petition form from the site and get signatures in person, which may seem harder but it can add up, and is a way to bring others into the campaign.
- Can you find among the people who have signed the petition someone to help collect signatures for the campaign?
- It’s a good option for more local campaigns that are centred on a specific place, where you can go in real life.
- It’s also great for having real conversations, getting real-time feedback and refining your ‘ask’ and ‘why’s.
🚀 Watch: Organising to get petition signatures, an online training seminar from ActionStation. Mobilising supporters to collect signatures can build local support; it can mobilise off an online or media event and vice versa; it is great for having real conversations, getting real-time feedback and refining your communication around the campaign. This recording was a one hour online training in July 2018 led by experienced campaigner and 350 Aotearoa volunteer Erica Finnie.
Organise offline events
You can consider any events that can give it a push, visibility, get talking to people about it in real time, engage supporters.
- A ‘Day of action’ when you ask lots of people to go out and get signatures at the same time
- Stunts, visual events. Can you organise a stunt that tells a message of your campaign? A photo from the day can be used in future messaging and gives the campaign recognition.
- Talks, concerts, rally. Are there experts in the field who should be heard? Give them a platform and collect signatures on the day.
- Petition delivery for example: Better mental health, June 2017
Create media opportunities
While stories in the media by themselves won’t usually affect signature numbers, they can be used to feedback to supporters to show the progress of the campaign and ask them to take action. Look for opportunities to put out a media release or contact a journalist:
- Is there a personal story to tell?
- A special time or public event that makes this campaign relevant right now?
- One way a media story can get signatures is if the petition link is included in the story – it’s not common but you can ask the journalist to add the link for example: Wading through red tape and cotton wool to enable nature-based kindergartens
Example 1: Save the CAMHS Crisis Team campaign
- Humans fronting the campaign
- Personal stories
- Media releases
- Communications with signers by email and social media
- Self-made video documentary
- Working with allies
The things above helped with the following and were in turn helped by:
- Media coverage – stories to tell
- Growing public concerns with mental health
“Why aren’t people signing this? It took a while to get my head around it. You have to get out there, push it, make it obvious, no one is googling this petition. It has to be right there in front of them in their social media feeds for them to take action”. – Zoe Palmer, Save the CAMHS Crisis Team campaign
Read more at How to run a kick-ass campaign to save your local specialist mental health service
Example 2: #LetUsFinish – Remove Student Loan Cap for future doctors campaign
- Catchy title and hashtag
- Humans fronting it
- Personal stories
- Connection with inequality issues, effect of the cap on Māori students in particular
- Facebook group
- Communications with signers through emails
- Video and nice design elements
- Working with allies
The things above helped with the following, and were helped by:
- Media coverage – stories to tell
- Public concerns with health and lack of rural GPs
- Timed with election campaign to get promises from Opposition parties
Read more at From #LetUsFinish — to #WeWillFinish!
A printer friendly PDF can be downloaded from the box at the bottom of the page. See also How to present a petition to Parliament. For information about an alternative petition platform see Using Megaphone to organise workers (or why you should care about online petitions).