Petitions are a relatively simplistic means of mobilization that can successfully create change on a local, national and even global scale. In this article we’ll be examining some of the ways in which petitions work to deliver this change that your NGO, organization, movement or campaign is hoping to achieve. We’ll also be examining some of the ways in which petitions empower ordinary citizens and how you can gain a new collection of contacts by creating a petition- let’s mobilize!
Petitions are one of the few opportunities that ordinary citizens have to express their opinion on a particular matter. By providing a space in which any member of the public can add their signature to signal their support for a particular matter, petitions serve to illuminate how the public truly feels about certain issues. There are some petition platforms these days where people can scroll and find petitions in areas that interest them and collaborate. Not only this, but petitions can serve to restore the public’s faith in social justice initiatives and politics, as members of the public, who are provided with few opportunities to mobilize, can themselves be the driving force behind powerful change. This will empower many members of the public to get involved in future initiatives and actions, which will benefit your organization hugely.
Few issues remain in the public eye for long. The lifespan of a news story is usually only a couple of days, even if it is something that needs to stay in the public consciousness for longer. All too often the issues that need our attention the most fade into obscurity before ever gaining the support they deserve. Petitions help to combat this- by starting an online petition that revisits an issue that is no longer gaining traction, you can acquire a host of new supporters for a particular cause. This will restore much needed momentum to an issue, build a brand new support network, and ultimately solve the problem you’re trying to tackle.
When managing a cause or campaign, it can be hard to identify who your target supporters are. It can be even more difficult to reach these individuals without any natural point of access to them. Key donors, voters and supporters can easily be lost by failing to provide an outlet through which members of your community can express their interest in your efforts. Petitions help to solve this problem- by providing your community with an open invitation to express their interest in a cause, you can clearly identify the members of your community who are generally interested in a cause you’re supporting. It’s likely that those who sign your petition will support your other projects and your organization more generally. In this way, starting a petition gives you a ready-made supporter and contact database at your fingertips. An online petition is an even more powerful way to gather contacts, as the rapidity with which information spreads online will allow for your petition to reach more people- hopefully they’ll then become future supporters, voters and donors!
At their most powerful, petitions have the capacity to affect change on a national, and even international scale. The Justice for George Floyd Petition in 2020 for example, which called for the arrest of a police officer who murdered a man whom he was arresting on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill, gained 19 million signatures and led to the police officer’s conviction in 2021. Similarly the End Child Food Poverty Petition in the UK, which called upon the British Government to expand access to free school meals in order to reduce childhood hunger, received over 1 million signatures and resulted in the UK Government responding with a promise to introduce a comprehensive support package to help families struggling with food poverty. It’s evident from these examples that petitions truly do affect change on a large scale!
So the next time you want to expand your supporter or donor base, raise awareness for a cause, amplify your community’s voice or affect change on a broad scale, consider creating a petition. As this article has demonstrated, they work in more ways than one, making them especially powerful and a worthwhile investment of time and resources for any organization!