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Let’s practice writing a petition
The first thing you should note is that there is no set format for a petition other than it looks professional and convincing to the audience/potential signatures. Your message should be clear, and your delivery needs to be polite and friendly. When you bring this all together, it will help you get the signatures you need to effect change, no matter how great or small your goal.
First, Develop your argument. Before you start your petition, put some time into researching your topic thoroughly. Look at websites and literature about your cause. Get an idea of not only what you want to change but what the counterpoints to your arguments might be.
- If, for example, you want to petition your local government for a new park, look on your town’s website regarding regulations and rules for parks. See if you can find previous budgets or proposals for past parks, too.
Second, Verify the jurisdiction for the petition. Think about who will have to implement the petition. Will it be a school, your office, your local government, or a national body? Contact administrative offices or check out the organization’s website to make sure that they are the correct body for your petition.
- If you are petitioning a government office, have the office direct you to the department that handles matters related to your cause. Then request petition guidelines. You may also want to confirm whether or not your petition needs approval prior to circulating.
Third, Find out how many signatures you need. Most government bodies and many other organizations have guidelines regarding the number of signatures required for a petition to be considered. Confirm this number with the group or agency where your petition will be submitted.
Fourth, Develop a clear and specific statement of your goal. Once you know what is required of your petition, write a statement that frames your goals. It should be precise, concise, and informative. It doesn’t need to contain every target or point for your cause, but it should give potential signers a strong idea of your cause.
- ”We support more funding for a park” is far too weak and general. Instead, try, “We demand that the Commissioners of Nature County allocate funds for a new park in the Adventure District.”
- This statement will go at the top of your petition. You may choose to put it in larger and/or bolded text to make it stand out.
Fifth, Add a brief summary of your cause. Under your goal statement, include a paragraph or two that briefly describes the nature of the issue, a statement about why the issue matters to the petition audience, and a proposed change or call to action to address the issue. You want to describe the issue in a way that makes sense to someone, even if they know nothing about the cause.
- The longer your petition is, the less likely people will be to read it through completely or sign it. Try keeping your petition’s text to two or three short, easy-to-scan paragraphs. Adding a few bullet points or numbers can also be helpful.
- Do a check to make sure your petition text makes sense. Have someone else read it over to check for clarity and see if they understand your problem and your campaign’s end goal.
Sixth, Prepare references for your statements. Some people will want to know where you are getting your information so that they can make sure it is valid. Prepare an additional sheet that you can keep behind your petition that cites the references you consulted. Be sure to include the title and author of the reference, where you found it (like a book title or URL, if applicable), and the date you accessed it.
- You can even choose to print out a few extra copies and hand them out if someone requests such.
The Seventh step is to edit your petition for spelling and grammar errors. If errors litter your petition, it is very unlikely you will be taken seriously. Use spell check and proofread your petition for obvious mistakes. Read it out loud to determine if it flows and makes sense.
Step 8 Make a call to action. Your opening statement may touch on what you want to see done about the issue, but you should also include a brief paragraph explaining the desired result. Let people know what will happen if your petition is fulfilled. Be concise but specific. Let people know what you want to happen, who can make it happen, and when it should happen.
- Try something like, “we call on the Department of Housing and Economic Development to require at least 20% voucher-sponsored housing in all buildings in the city within the next five years.”
Step 9 Let people know what else they can do to support the cause. If applicable, you can choose to include a paragraph at the bottom of your petition letting people know if there are other things they can do to support your cause. If it would help to have people calling local political offices or setting up meetings with company heads, let people know who they should be talking to and how to get in touch with them.
- You could add on a brief statement like, “To further support the cause, make an appointment to meet with the City Manager’s Office sometime before the City Council vote this coming March.”
Step 10 Create a signer’s form on a separate sheet for paper petitions. The signer’s form is the actual action you want from people, and you need a designated space for that. Put the petition title on top of the form. Then, use a spreadsheet or word processor to create a signature and demographic lines. Depending on your cause and the requirements for a petition in your area, you may want to include email addresses, phone numbers, and zip codes, along with names and signatures.
- Collect postal codes, zip codes, or any other information legally required so that you can verify the signers live in an area impacted by your petition issue.
- Print out more copies of the signature form than you think you’ll need. It’s always better to be over-prepared than to have to turn away impactful signatures.
- If you are using a website to collect signatures, the program will develop the signature form for you.
Design and turn in your petition to this assignment folder. While this is the end of this assignment, it is certainly not where petitions end. This is the beginning of a petitioner’s work. The fun of gathering signatures and promoting the petition is followed. Petitioners go where they can speak with large numbers of people concerned about the issue or open to information about it, such as public places in areas where your target audience likes to congregate or hang out to start collecting signatures. They spread the word about their petition through offices, schools, and other social groups and hand out signature forms to friends who may also want to get involved. For this assignment, only complete steps 1-10. There is no need to collect signatures.