11 Apr 2023
Gather your first signatures
Get the ball rolling by signing the petition yourself, and asking the core members of your group to sign it too. Task them to each think of 10 other people who might agree with the petition aims, ideally from different networks. Get them to send a short message, asking these people to sign and share the petition.
Make these messages as personal as possible – talking to people as individuals always gets better results. See the section below on emailing for ideas on what to say.
This approach should help you to start reaching out to different parts of the community. Hopefully, some of these connections will take on a life of their own, further increasing the amount of signatures.
Boost your numbers
Once your petition has some signatures, it’ll feel like there’s momentum behind it. Make the most of this by sharing your petition far and wide to build your support base and collective power. If you’d like to include any images when promoting your petition, check out our image bank.
WhatsApp. Ask group members to share the petition with other people they know, like friends, family and colleagues. WhatsApp can be a great way to do this. Craft a short message introducing the petition and send it to all your contacts.
Facebook. Most communities now have Facebook groups where people can interact online. Create a template post and share it with various local Facebook groups. Be ready to reply to any comments quickly, as this’ll help your petition feel like a live issue.
Twitter. Look for local hashtags to help your petition get traction. Tag groups, businesses and organisations you know and ask them to retweet. Also tag any campaign partners that have agreed to co-host your petition. See our social media resources for more info.
Other social networks. Look for other online networks in your community, like NextDoor. They offer an easy way to reach a lot of people at once.
Local media. Approach local media outlets with a press release or letter to the editor. Share local data on the energy crisis and include quotes from your members to add life to your story. Or you could set up a photo opportunity to attract attention. Don’t forget about the unusual suspects like local hospital radio or local TV channels. Have a look at our guide to getting local media coverage for more tips to get you started.
Your networks. Reach out to any local groups, organisations and businesses you haven’t already contacted and tell them about the petition. Take the personal approach and talk to them one at a time. Draft a template message that outlines the aims of the petition and why their support will help. Keep it to less than 150 words. Ask them if they’ll help spread the word, for example by sharing it with their mailing list.
Go out into your community
It's important to get out into your community and gather signatures face-to-face. While this can be more time-consuming, it'll help you build connections, especially with those outside your usual networks, and recruit new members to your group. It'll also increase your campaign's visibility in the community.
Make it easy. Petitions usually have long, hard-to-remember links that don’t work well when printed. Make it easy for people by creating a shorter link or QR code instead. QR codes can be especially useful for posters or on stalls, as they allow people to find the petition quickly and easily on their phone. Create a free account with Bit.ly to generate shorter URLs or QR codes using your petition link. Tinyurl is also good for creating shorter links.
Street stalls. Use our paper petition forms to gather signatures on stalls, at events and wherever else you can. Think about busy places to hold a stall, like the train station, supermarkets, shopping centres or outside schools. Spend 15 minutes asking every other passer-by to sign the petition (using block capitals so their details are legible), then take a quick break before repeating. A good day on a stall can get a couple of hundred names. Use our guide on how to talk to your community about the campaign. Be sure to include “opt-in” wording (see our petition templates) so you have permission to contact people afterwards.
Make it interactive. Think about how to draw in passers-by. Use our conversation starter guide for inspiration on how to run engaging stalls. You can also order stall resources like leaflets and posters.
Events. Events are another great opportunity to host a stall and promote your petition. Find a range of events to attend, including ones that may have nothing to do with the fight for warm homes, for example local festivals, fairs and fetes. This’ll help you reach a wider audience.
Go digital. Can you take a laptop or tablet with you so that people can sign the petition there and then? With a tablet you can walk around and approach people too. Use Action Network’s kiosk mode to help speed up signature gathering.
Make a poster. Make some A4 laminated posters to go on notice boards and in shop windows. Include a big QR code and short link.
Email is still one of the most effective ways to communicate. Share the petition with your email list, and try to do this more than once. People get lots of emails, so you need to make your petition stand out. If you just share it in your monthly newsletter, it might get missed alongside the other stories. So here’s a suggested approach, along with some template emails you can adapt...
Send an email to your list that only talks about the petition. Use a simple subject line such as “Sign our Warm Homes petition” or “Ask [MP name] to take action on warm homes”. Keep your email to less than 250 words to maximise readership and impact. If you use Action Network (a digital platform designed to support local campaigning), watch these training videos on how to personalise your email and use buttons to highlight your petition.
One week later… send a reminder email, excluding people who’ve already added their name. Keep the message simple by re-using your original email and adding a few sentences at the start, for example “Did you see our email last week? X people have now signed the petition. Will you add your name?” Use “Re:” at the start of your subject line so people know the email is a follow-up. And don’t be afraid to ask more than once – people usually need a couple of reminders before they take action.
A few days later… send an email to everyone who’s signed the petition and ask them to share it with 3 other people. Remind them how many signatures you already have, or give them a target to aim for, for example “Can you help us reach 500 signatures?”. Watch this training video or read this guide on how to create social media share links.
Over time… keep talking to your email list about the petition.
- Mention it in monthly newsletters, every month.
- Ask everyone who’s signed it to share it (again!).
- Send at least one more email to everyone on your list who hasn’t signed it.
- Use targets and deadlines to give your petition a hook. Are you close to a milestone number? Ask people to help you reach it. Are you handing the petition in? Use that as a deadline.
For more email tips, see our guide to persuading your email list to take action.
Gathering petition signatures is hard work, and those names won’t just add themselves. Think outside the box, and go beyond your usual haunts – reach out to community centres, places of worship, local businesses and spaces in the community you’ve not visited before.
Here’s a list of suggestions from groups working on the United for Warm Homes campaign to give you some ideas. Let us know if you have any recommendations to add to the list.
- Neighbours. Take a street-by-street approach and get as many people as possible in the surrounding area to sign your petition.
- Food banks.
- Neighbourhood groups eg over 60s clubs, gardening groups etc.
- Warm space sessions.
- Local cafés and shops.
- Wholefood shops.
- Places of worship.
- Schools, colleges and universities.
- Swimming pools and sports centres.
- Community centres/hubs.
- Housing associations.
- Renter unions eg ACORN.
- Local councillors.
- Local energy businesses.
- Exercise classes and groups.