How To Collect Petition Signatures

for your Member of Congress

Posted by OBS Team on April 1st, 2014

Occassionally we leverage the power of petitions for specific advocacy campaigns. Whether you are new to advocacy or a veteran just looking for some extra tips, if you are participating in a campaignt that has a petition option you have come to the right place!

How To Collect Petition Signatures

We asked some of our top grassroots activists what they have done to get more people to sign their petitions. The common thread in all of their stories was that they were public, vocal, and met people were they were. Here are their tips for succeeeding with a petition:

1. Know When & How To Use A Petition

Petitions are almost never our first advocacy action on any campaign. They tend to be less personal and less effective; however, this does not mean that they are useless. Some of our top grassroots activists have had to use petitions when their personal letters and phone calls were not enough. 

To clarify, if you haven't written or called your Congressional office yet, we encourage you to do that before starting a petition. Visit our Advocacy Support page for easy-to-use instructions on calling and writing your member of Congress. 

We also discourage the use of online petition programs like Change.org. Occassionally we use online platforms such as these if we need to get something accomplished on a large scale quickly, but these platforms tend to be impersonal and sometimes signatures are not delivered. Hand-signed petitions are more personable and add more weight to your ask. 

2. Use The Official Operation Broken Silence Petition Form

If a petition is part of one of our advocacy campaigns, Operation Broken Silence always designs an easy-to-use petition form that you can download and print off. This saves you time and allows you to focus on what is important: getting signatures. 

Congressional offices have reported back to us that our branded petitions stand out from other ones as they look nicer and usually have more signatures. Simply put, our petition forms get noticed. Visit the advocacy campaign page you are interested in to download the form if one is available. 

3. Set An Attainable Goal,  Stretch Goal, & Deadline

Set a realistic timeline for when you want to deliver your petition to your local Congressional office. We reccomend spending 1-4 weeks collecting signatures. Give yourself plenty of time to hit your goal while keeping in my mind that you don't want to wait too long following your personal letters and phone calls. 

Set an attainable goal for the number of signatures you want. On average our grassroots activists aim for 50 signatures, most of which they can get from family and friends. It's also a good idea to set a stretch goal, or a second goal you can aim for if you hit your first goal more quickly than you expected. 

4. Hit Your Network First

The people most inclined to sign your petition will be people you know. Take the petition to your campus, church, or workplace for signatures. Ask family members to sign. Get some neighbors involved. Reaching 75% of your goal before you even begin reaching outside of your network is a good place to end up.

5. Go Public & Be Vocal

Once you've hit the edge of your network, it's time to give people you may not know a chance to get involved. Find a very public, high-traffic area you can setup a table and collect signatures at. You may need to get permission from a local business owner to setup on their property, so be respectful of the community around you.

Bring more than your petition form with you. Grab some of the other resources available on the campaign page like informational one-pagers you can hand out. It's also a great idea to print off a personal letter template for anyone who wants to write a personal note as well as signing the petition. 

Last but not least, it's a great idea to have some friends and family join you at the table. This ensures that if you get overwhelmed with people trying to sign you have others to assist you. It also makes the table look more lively and gives you the opportunity to have people walk around and talk about what's going on. 

6. Deliver The Petition In Person

Once you've reached your goal and deadline, reach out to your Congressional district office to schedule a time to present the petition. You can get contact information for the local office on your Member of Congress' website. 

Seal the petition in a envelope, grab a group of friends and family, dress nice, and be a few minutes early. Show up prepared to talk briefly about Sudan and then deliver the petition. Make sure that you schedule a folllow up date and time to discover if the Member of Congress will be taking the action or if you require further advocacy.

If you need help handling followup, we have some great resources available on our Advocacy Support page.

Tags: advocacy, South Sudan, Sudan

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