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We’ve put this page together to help you elevate your concerns to elected officials and organize around the issues that matter most to you. With this toolkit, you can learn how to start powerful petitions and build signatures that will help you influence public conversations and make an impact.

But remember: signatures are just one part of a successful campaign. To find supporters, mobilize them, organize events, gain media coverage, and run an effective campaign, you’ll need to get organized. Read on to learn everything you need to know about online organizing for positive change.

Phase 1 | Phase 2 | Phase 3 | Phase 4

PHASE 1: How to write successful petition text

Have a clear ask

The most successful petitions we see on Change.org have one clear and measurable ask. Instead of “end world hunger,” try something more specific like “pass this law to provide more funding to food kitchens.” In your petition text, you’ll want to address questions like “Who is impacted by this issue? What will happen if the petition does or does not win? Is this issue urgent?”

Tell a story

In your petition text, help readers understand why this issue is important to you or someone you love — people are more likely to support you if they feel that they can relate to your personal story. Also consider using language that’s less partisan so as to include the experiences and interests of a broader group of supporters.

PHASE 2: Choose your decision-maker

After you choose your issue, you need to choose the correct decision-maker.

Be precise and strategic

It’s better to direct your petition to the people who have the authority to give you what you want rather than more senior, public figures, such as President Trump (who may not be able to wield his power to act in your favor). Someone directly responsible for your issue can make a decision and implement your solution faster. They are also more sensitive to public pressure because they aren’t used to it. Ask these questions when choosing a decision-maker for your petition:

  • Who exactly has the power to make the change I want to see? This could be a Member of Congress or an individual that runs a specific program at a government agency.
  • What power do you have over them? If you decide to direct your petition to your elected official, you are a constituent and you can use the power of your vote. If you decide to direct your petition to an appointed official or an elected representative from outside of your district/state, find out what they care about (their own stakes) and use that to your advantage in the petition text.

Here is some information on how to determine which elected official you might want to petition:

Members of Congress

Find your Members of Congress, their websites, their contact information, and their voting records at www.callmycongress.com. Do research on their positions and committee appointments on their websites and in the news.

You can also look for Members of Congress that serve on committees relevant to your issue: https://www.congress.gov/committees.

When starting a petition, add your Members of Congress as decision-makers in addition to adding “U.S. House of Representatives” and/or “U.S. Senate” when applicable. Change.org automatically adds the email address for Members of Congress to your petition.

President Trump

We recommend only directing your petition to President Trump when there is no other decision-maker in the government who has the power to make the change you want to see (i.e. executive orders, pardons).

Other government agencies

If you’re concerned about a specific program that falls under the jurisdiction of a governmental agency such as the Department of Labor, research the individual at each organization that has the power to make a decision on your issue. Here’s a list of contact pages for government agencies that publicly list email addresses:

Department of Commerce     |     Department of Energy     |      Environmental Protection Agency

Department of Health and Human Services     |     Department of Homeland Security

Department of Housing and Urban Development     |     Department of the Interior

Department of Justice     |     Department of Labor     |     Department of the Treasury

If the department you want to target isn’t listed above or you can’t find an email address, call the department or look up the “person’s name + ‘email’” on a search engine. You may be able to find their email address if you check inside PDF documents like conference presentations.

Engage your audience

Use the petition update tool to send emails to your signers about how the petition is progressing and what they can do to help. Start a discussion about campaign tactics or organize volunteers on your petition’s Community page. You can send a petition update from your petition Dashboard. Each message triggers an email to all your signers, and can include one image or link preview.

PHASE 3: Escalate your petition

Increase Your Reach

Post a petition update whenever there’s relevant news or when you want your signers to take further action. Your signers will be excited to hear about how they can help, so be sure to include a call to action (e.g. join this meeting, call this office, meet for this rally) within each update.

To send a petition update to all of your signers, scroll to the bottom of your petition and click the “Post an Update” button. Every update you post will be sent as an email to petition signers inboxes.

Ask your signers to help you spread the word on your campaign:

  • If you want signers to share your petition on Facebook, create a free sharing link with your petition URL using ShareLinkGenerator.
  • If you want your signers to share your petition on Twitter, create a sample tweet that includes your petition link using Click-To-Tweet.
  • If you want to keep your petition updates looking clean and track how many people click links in your petition updates, create short URLs for free with Bitly.
  • Here are a few examples of petition updates that ask signers to share the petition on social media:
Recruit volunteers for your campaign

Need help reaching out to press, researching legislation, drafting petition updates, organizing actions, and raising money? Ask your signers! Post a petition update asking for volunteers to fill out a Google form if they want to provide more support to the campaign.

Change the narrative

Sometimes in order to convince people to support a cause, you need to change their minds about an issue first. Use some of these tricks to change the narrative around an issue, and turn more people into campaign supporters!

  • Submit a letter to the editor of your local paper, talking about why this issue is important, and why you think your decision-maker should do what you are asking them.
  • Write a blog post about your campaign, or an opinion editorial to publish at your favorite lower or mid-tier media outlets. Several smaller newspapers, blogs, or publications accept submissions if you follow the guidelines listed on their site.
  • For both options, be sure to include your petition link in the piece so that people know where to go to support you!
Get the media to cover your campaign for you

Press coverage can help drive signatures to your campaign, and get the attention of your decision-maker. Journalists are always looking for a new story to write about — here are a few tips to getting them to cover your petition.

  • Research journalists — at local, national or industry media outlets — who have written about the issue you are campaigning about, or similar topics. Research their email address on their writer’s profile, or their Twitter profile.
  • Send them a message with the basic information they’d need to know about the petition, leading with a “hook”: a piece of information that relates to the current news cycle. If Congress is voting on a healthcare bill and your campaign is related to health insurance, make that your hook!
  • Follow up. Journalists don’t always respond to a message on the first try, but you might have better luck if you try one more time, or on a different platform — Twitter especially.
Crowdfund for an action

After you’ve hit 500 signatures, Change.org’s crowdfunding tool allows your supporters to donate to help you escalate your campaign. You can fundraise to buy a billboard, make signs for a rally, or rent a bus for an meeting with your Member of Congress.

To create a crowdfund associated with your campaign, just navigate to your petition and click the “Add a fundraiser” button at the top. Set a reasonable fundraising goal, and describe to your signers what you plan to do with the money they donate. Be specific!

Here are a few examples of successful crowdfunding campaigns on Change.org:

PHASE 4: Engage your decision-maker

Call your representatives

One of the most effective ways to make your voice heard is to call your decision-makers. Find the phone numbers for your Members of Congress: www.callmycongress.com or visit the “contact us” page of any government agency to find a phone number for general inquiries.

Sample phone script for calling your Member of Congress:

“Hello. My name is XX and I am a constituent of Senator/Representative XX in {City, State}. Can I please speak with the staffer who handles X issues?”

The person on the phone (most likely an intern) may put you on the phone with the appropriate staffer or may insist that you can leave a message with them. Be polite and take their lead, but make sure you write down the name of whomever you talk to.

“I am calling to ask Senator XX to support Senate Bill 1918, the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act. As was made clear by the death of Cecil the Lion, trophy hunting poses a huge danger to wildlife throughout the world and this bill would supplement the Endangered Species Act in helping protect exotic wild life. Since many of these animal trophies are shipped to the United States, it is our time to act. Will Senator XX be a leader for animal welfare and conservation and support this bill?”

Include a clear question in your call and ask for more details on why your Member of Congress has made a decision (or no decision) on your issue.

“I’m happy/upset to hear about my Senator/Representative’s decision. Thanks for listening to my concerns.”

Include a phone script or 2–3 talking points in the petition update for your signers to use in their calls.

Here are a few examples of petition updates that mobilized hundreds of signers to call their Member of Congress or the President:

Whenever possible, always encourage your supporters to call their Members of Congress. Elected representatives are concerned about re-election and their reputation amongst voters and local press in their districts and states, but are less interested in hearing from people who are not their constituents. Use that to your advantage!

Start a discussion about the call-in day on your petition’s Community page so people can report back.

Schedule in-person meetings + petition deliveries

Visit your MoC’s website to find the email address for their scheduler. Here’s a sample meeting request email.

Subject: Constituent meeting request

Dear XX,

My name is XX and I’m a constituent of XX from XX. I would like to request a meeting with Congressman XX or a member of his/her staff to discuss HB123. 

I started a petition urging the Congressman to vote “nay” on HB123 because XX: [petition link] The petition garnered 36,000 supporters from around the country, including 2,300 constituents from the Congressman’s district. I was encouraged to see the Congressman’s comments of support in my local paper, and I’m hopeful that we can discuss this issue more in person. [Your availability + contact information]

Thank you in advance, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

XX

You can also call your MoC’s office and request a meeting. Take a look at our Engage Your Decision Maker guide to learn how to prepare for the meeting, explain what you want, and follow up.

Organize a social media day of action

A social media day of action is a low-lift tactic that you can use to sustain momentum on your campaign if it’s no longer in the news or public-eye. Always use a hashtag (make your own or use a popular one that already exists!) and post an update a week in advance and day-of to build excitement. Here are some fun actions you can encourage signers to take:

  • Share the petition and a few sentences about your campaign on the Facebook wall of their Member of Congress.
  • Tweet the petition at their Member of Congress (or a specific Congressman). Create a sample tweet that includes your petition link using Click-To-Tweet.
  • Create a ThunderClap to schedule tweets from hundreds of Twitter accounts, targeted at your decision-maker. Ask your signers to participate by signing up. Just remember that ThunderClaps don’t go off if you don’t reach your supporter goal, so set a reasonable goal.
  • Photo action. Ask people to share a picture of themselves on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using a specific hashtag and tagging your decision-maker. You can create a beautiful sign people can download and print for free using Canva.
Reach out to people and organizations who are working on similar issues and try to collaborate!

Look up organizations, activists, and experts in your community that work on the issue you’re advocating for. If they have a public social media profile or email address, reach out to set up an in person or phone meeting to learn more about their work and opportunities for collaboration.

Other resources:
  • How a Bill Becomes A Law — Step by step guide on how Washington works
  • Countable — Summaries of key legislation on important issues like the environment, healthcare, jobs, and education + tools to see how your elected representatives vote and keep them accountable
  • Factbase — Searchable archive of President Trump’s speeches, tweets, and policy statements.
  • Indivisible Guide — For progressives. Former congressional staff created a guide of best practices for making Congress listen during the Trump administration.
  • Resistance Manual — For progressives. Open source wiki on Trump and the GOP’s agenda and “how to resist”