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How to Write an Effective Petition

Updated on January 18, 2015

A petition is a proposal for change. How you present your case will go a long way in getting the outcome you want. Petitions have been around since the 13th century and have helped shape society in many ways. Here are the basic steps you will want to take to make sure your cause is taken seriously enough for people to support and share with others.

Be Clear About Your Goals

Concisely describe the situation, suggest what is needed and explain why it is needed. Do your homework. Provide examples and links to documentation.

Relevant and well-documented research to support your petition carries validity and influence.

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Be Reasonable

Make sure your request is reasonable and realistic. For example, initiating public transportation is a reasonable request because transportation is vital to the growth and prosperity of a community.

If your goal is going to succeed, it needs to be achievable.

Identify Your Target

Whether petitioning the federal government or a local sports organization, make sure you address the petition to the person who has the authority to make changes. You may have to do a bit of research for this, but it is very important to the success of the petition.

Giving a thousand signatures to the cafeteria lady in support of switching from sticky buns to fresh fruit in your work place isn't going to succeed simply because she doesn't have the authority to make the switch.

Have a Plan

Figure out the details of your petition campaign before you begin.

  • How can you get your petition seen by as many people as possible?
  • Who will volunteer to help you collect signatures?
  • What is your timeline?
  • Are there any local organizations willing to support your efforts financially, if necessary?

Determine Your Format

The format of your petition is vital. Hand written letters are viewed with much respect because of the time, effort and thought that goes into them. When collecting signatures, you need the person's name, address, and signature at the very minimum.

Want to Know More?

Want to know how to make sure your online petition is done right and taken seriously? Read The Basics of Online Petitions.

Web-based petitions are gaining acceptance. There are sites dedicated to hosting web-based petitions and networking group petitions are cropping up everywhere. If used sensibly and with respect to privacy, they can be very effective.

Email petitions are not acceptable. Period. Once the email is released into the webby-nether, there is no way of controlling where it goes, to whom or how many times. There is also no way to remove it when the issue has been resolved. Email petitions are excellent for getting email addresses into the hands of hackers and spammers, but not for making changes in society.

Still, emails have their place in your efforts. Emails can be used to inform colleagues, local media and the public in general of the situation. You may even wish to include contact information so readers can personally write, email or call your target directly. Email is also useful to let people know where they can access your petition and keep supporters informed of progress.

Get The Right Support

A signed petition is a show of public support to influence decisions, protest something or instigate change. It is only effective if the people signing are under the jurisdiction of the person you are sending the petition to. A senator from Alabama doesn't care if 10 thousand people from North Dakota signed your petition. He needs to hear from his own constituents. Same for your child's school. Getting signatures from parents in other school districts to sign the "no uniform" petition won't help your case. You need support from people who are directly affected by the issue.

Good Luck!

Remember, petitions simply state the case, ask for change, and show support for the proposed change. They don't guarantee that the outcome you want will happen quickly (or at all). Surround yourself with positive and supportive people, because even the most righteous of causes can get tangled in red tape.

Petitions do work. I've seen it happen.

© 2015 Rosa Marchisella


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