Action Activity 6

The Power of Petitions

Petitions are a great way to show support for your efforts, get the attention of the community and of decision makers, and bring about change. Petitions demonstrate group strength. Officials may ignore you, but the more names you have on your petition, the harder it will be to ignore your petition. See Handout 5, A Sample Petition.

The following tips will help to make your petition effective:

1. Appearance – In general, use standard 8-1/2" x 11" inch paper. However, for some actions you may want to be more inventive, for example, creating a giant petition on a roll of butcher paper. The petition should not be too hard to mail, however.

2. Title – Give the petition a title so that both the signers and the receivers know immediately what it is about.

3. Purpose Statement – Write a statement describing the problem your petition is addressing, the solution you are proposing, or the response you would like to get from officials. This should appear at the top of every petition page so that people know what they are signing.

4. Blank Lines – Provide blank lines for people to write any or all of this information:

  • Name

  • The class, grade, or group to which they belong to

  • Their school or hometown

  • Their address and telephone number

Some petitions require addresses as proof that the signers are taxpayers in the area. Also you may wish to contact some of your signers again (e.g., to let them know the results of the petition). For a sample petition, click here.

5. Number the lines for easy totaling.

6. Plan – Strategize the times and places where you are likely to collect the most signatures.

If you plan to take your petition door-to-door, never go alone. Always get a parent, teacher, or other adult to go with you.

7. Smile – The better you treat the people you approach, the more likely they are to sign your petition.

8. Stay Calm – Some people you ask to sign may disagree with your ideas and try to argue with you. Be ready to explain your ideas clearly, but remain polite and respectful. Never speak or act rudely.

9. Photocopy – When you’ve finished collecting signatures, photocopy all the pages. Keep them in a safe place. You may need proof of the signatures, and the addresses may form the basis of a mailing list.

10. Present the Petition – Choose the recipient carefully. It should be someone who has the power to act on your ideas. Try to arrange to present it in person. Bring along a camera or the press!

Source: Adapted from Barbara A. Lewis, The Kid’s Guide to Social Action (Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Press, 1991).

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