Online Petitions Guide: 5 Smart Electronic Petition Tips

Mark Kelly
March 16, 2018

Check out our online petitions guide to learn our top electronic petition tips.

Nonprofit advocacy thrives on online excitement from your community of supporters. After all, your cause will never garner widespread support if you aren’t sharing inspiring calls to action across the web. So, what’s the best way to generate buzz for your organization online? Sharing electronic petitions!

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Online petitions are a great way for your nonprofit to get the word out about your latest advocacy efforts. Not only can this nonprofit advocacy software tool help tell the story of your organization online, but petitions can also serve as an entry point for new members of your community.

Does your nonprofit want to start galvanizing your digital engagement strategy with online petitions? Check out our favorite online petition best practices:

  1. Clearly communicate your message and presence in your online petition form.
  2. Integrate your online petition throughout your nonprofit’s digital presence.
  3. Focus and engage your supporters with your online petition.
  4. Give supporters a way to react to news about your cause via your electronic petition.
  5. Leverage your online petition to shine a light on your cause in the media.

Online petitions are one of the best ways to reach new constituents while effectively using your voice to advocate on behalf of your cause.

Let’s dive into these key strategies so your team can start mastering these useful digital tools!

Clearly communicate your message and presence in your online petition form.

1. Clearly communicate your message and presence in your online petition form.

One of the most important factors when it comes to crafting a compelling online petition is identity. Does your form clearly communicate who your nonprofit is and what your campaign is about?

With the right online petition software, your nonprofit can quickly build effective electronic petitions that perfectly broadcast your organization’s identity and let readers know why they should advocate for your cause.

Check out some of these ways your team can build successful online petitions by leveraging petition software:

  • Call your readers to immediate action. Your online petition shouldn’t only request that readers sign your form. Rather, your form should give readers the tools to make their voices heard immediately. For example, by including social sharing tools you can call on readers to post about your campaign right from your petition’s thank-you screen.
  • Brand the form to your organization. Readers are less likely to sign an online petition when they don’t directly associate it with your organization’s established brand. To make readers feel more at home on your form, customize it to feature your brand’s colors, logos, photos, videos, and other elements that make it unique.
  • Include compelling visuals. On a similar note, readers are more inclined to sign and share your petition when its visuals reflect the campaign for which it advocates. This means you should use online petition software to include compelling visuals that correlate with your advocacy campaign in prominent areas of the form, like the heading.

The bottom line: Without a fully customizable online petition platform, your advocacy campaign risks being left in the dust. Be sure that before your next campaign begins, your nonprofit invests in petition software that gives your team full control over how you present your message.

Integrate your online petition throughout your nonprofit's online presence.

2. Integrate your online petition throughout your nonprofit’s digital presence.

Your nonprofit’s online petition is at its most effective when it’s seamlessly integrated into your organization’s digital presence.

This means that your team should leverage your petition platform to place your form in prominent parts of your online engagement channels, including on your website, via email, and across other channels.

Some effective ways to incorporate your online petition throughout your nonprofit’s engagement channels include:

  • Adding the petition to the bottom of your website’s mission page. When new visitors land on your nonprofit’s website and are curious to read your mission statement page, capitalize on their interest by including your latest online petition form near the bottom of the page as a call to action.
  • Including your petition in advocacy emails. Take advantage of your advocacy email stream to share your nonprofit’s petition form. Your team can link out to the petition or embed it directly in your emails. This way readers are immediately connected with a way to actively engage with your organization.
  • Promoting your online petition form as a giving alternative. Frame requests to individuals to sign your petition as an alternative to making a monetary gift. The less pressure supporters feel to donate to your nonprofit, the more likely it is they’ll stay active with your organization and consider giving in the future.

Bonus tip! Ready to try out more advocacy strategies? Find out our favorite techniques for running an awesome advocacy campaign!

The bottom line: When supporters have more opportunities to encounter your online petition across your engagement channels, completion rates for your form will skyrocket. This is why integrating your online petition into your communication channels is a must!

Focus and engage your supporters with your online petition.

3. Focus and engage your supporters with your online petition.

Creating a successful online petition isn’t just about where you share it and how you make it stand out. Rather, effective electronic petitions need have the right foundation to rally your supporters and empower them to advocate for your cause.

When your organization shares an online petition, it needs to both focus your supporters on the objectives of your organization and engage them in completing the form.

Check out how Organization for International Change advocates for clean drinking water worldwide.

Streamline your online petition to grab the attention of your readers.

This advocacy group’s petition stands out for a number of reasons:

  • It broadcasts a clear purpose. Since the headline is a clear call to action (“Protect our drinking water!”), there’s no question of what the campaign is advocating.
  • It succinctly explains the why of the campaign. Because this petition contains a brief few paragraphs of text, there’s little risk of readers abandoning the form before they can sign.
  • It makes interacting with the campaign easy. Since the form includes a handful of fields and opt-in boxes, supporters can complete the form in no time.
  • It illustrates a clear cause and effect. Because the last line of the petition emphasizes what will happen if no action is taken, readers are given a compelling reason to act.

Want to learn more about effective online petition form strategies? Check out our post on our favorite online petition tips to optimize your form for supporters with advocacy software tools.

The bottom line: Effective petitions make readers care about an advocacy organization’s cause and give them the tools to act quickly. When your form is succinct and direct, readers are more likely to complete the petition.

Give supporters a way to react to news about your cause via your electronic petition.

4. Give supporters a way to react to news about your cause via your electronic petition.

Another way to create more effective online petitions is to closely align them with news stories relevant to your nonprofit’s mission. The more immediately relevant your cause feels to supporters, the more likely it is they’ll be excited to sign and share your form.

Not only that, but up-to-the minute online petitions are more likely to spread beyond your established constituent community because they offer a point of access to your organization for new supporters.

Check out some of these key ways you can keep your online petitions relevant:

  • Create a weekly petition to spread the word. It can be tempting to only create a select few petitions that gather steam over time; however, the reality is that weekly petitions can catch the attention of individuals who aren’t yet involved with your cause. Don’t end long-term campaigns prematurely, but try to leverage fresh petitions to grow your community each week.
  • Stay on top of news stories with search engine alerts. Your organization can use tools like Google News Alerts to keep watch over developing news stories that closely align with your organization’s cause. This way, you’ll never miss breaking news or an emerging trend that might inspire a new online petition.
  • Implement mobile-ready actions on your forms. Most people react to news through their mobile devices or tablets. Since we have our smartphones on us nearly 24/7, make sure your online petition has mobile-ready actions that make interacting with your form easy for supporters on-the-go.

Make your mobile online petition form easily navigable for readers.

See how Organization for International Change optimizes their online petition for mobile users? By an including easy-to-navigate version of their form, readers are never left wondering how they can engage with the advocacy campaign on their mobile device.

Bonus tip! Visit DNL OmniMedia to check out our post on the benefits of nonprofit technology, including how it can boost your campaign promotion strategy.

The bottom line: Keeping your online petitions relevant to supporters depends upon connecting your cause to the latest news and making it intuitive for mobile users to easily interact with your advocacy campaign.

Leverage your online petition to shine a light on your cause in the media.

5. Leverage your online petition to shine a light on your cause in the media.

Staying part of the latest newscycle isn’t limited to simply reacting to the latest stories, though. If your organization wants to keep people talking about your online petition, your team should be sure that you get people talking about your campaign in the media.

This way, your nonprofit can start controlling the narrative surrounding your cause. After all, you want to be able to shape public opinion about your mission and change minds beyond your immediate circle of supporters.

Take a look at some of these ways your team might get in the media spotlight:

  • Interact with media influencers. One way to characterize your organization as an authority on your cause is to engage with media influencers online. Your petition can call out powerful individuals who act against your mission or partner with influential advocates to legitimize your cause among their fanbase.
  • Make use of social media targeting and email automation tools. Online petition software often includes social media and email tools that make it easy to send customized messages across communication channels. This way your team will have a streamlined way to drive your message online and spread the word about your campaign.
  • Set ambitious advocacy campaign goals. The more ambitious your online petition’s goals, the more likely it is you’ll spark media conversation about your organization. Even if your petition’s goals are lofty or unrealistic, ambitious objectives show the world your organization means business and can inspire supporters to stay involved with your cause.

Bonus tip! Online petitions are an excellent way to spread the reach of advocacy campaigns. Check out our essential steps to perfecting your next campaign to learn more tips.

The bottom line: Your online petition won’t get very far if your team can’t control the media narrative surrounding your cause. Leverage strategies like these to get make your organization known and stay on top of how people perceive your cause.

Your organization’s online petitions are the frontline of your organization's outreach strategy, so your team needs to keep established best practices in mind as you plan your next advocacy campaign.

With these best practices, there’s nothing stopping your nonprofit from expertly crafting online petitions that bolster your cause and grow your community!


If you want to find out more about advocacy petitions, check out these additional resources:

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