A Beginners Guide to Petitioning

Written By: Accacia “Casey” Grant, Healthy Communities Fellow

 

This summer, I spent my time petitioning for the offshore wind campaign at CCAN. Maryland is at the forefront of offshore wind development — our Public Service Commission approved the two largest wind farms in the country last year. Now, it’s up to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to give the final approval for the projects, which will create thousands of jobs and enough clean energy to power 500,000 homes.

As important and exciting as offshore wind is, making the case for the petition to BOEM is still critical.  After all, you are persuading random people to sign something for you.

Now, this was my first time ever petitioning, so of course, I was naturally all over the place (in the beginning). I had a quick training on how to petition and I just knew I had it down pack when I was practicing. I had my attention grabber, I practiced my “polite voice”, I had my most important points, and overall I just felt really prepared! My first petitioning event was at a local farmers market here in Baltimore and boy was I nervous. As I was getting out of my car, walking towards the market I had my first targets: 3 college girls wearing Johns Hopkins paraphernalia! In my head, I’m thinking “how hard can this be, I mean I’m in college and so are they, so I can do this”. I approached them very confident, and out came… GIBBERISH. I was a complete mess. As they laughed at me, I laughed too, and honestly, I just had to get my awkwardness out, after all I’m only human so it was bound to happen. They allowed me to restart and pitch to them:

Me: “ Hi! My name is Casey, would you like to sign a petition for clean energy?!”

Them: “Of Course, why wouldn’t we! ”

Me: “ I work for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and right now I’m working on a campaign to get offshore wind in Ocean City. Offshore wind is produced by wind turbines which creates energy, clean energy at that.”

Them: “that sounds super cool.”

Me: “ Yea, offshore wind will be used to power over half a million homes in Maryland, create jobs, and most importantly fight climate change!”

Them: “OMG that is amazing!”

By this time they were done signing the petition and I simply closed with “thank you for signing the petition! I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.” After the 3 JHU girls it was smooth sailing for the rest of the day.

Usually, there are other petitioners at events like a farmers market or festivals so you can do them a favor by signing their petition and they’ll usually sign yours as well! Approaching people can be pretty nerve-wracking, but honestly, when you put yourself out there it becomes easier and easier. I went to other events and of course I would be nervous in the beginning but I just remembered my elevator speech about the campaign and it flowed. Occasionally I would get questions and most of the time,  I knew the answer. But if I didn’t know the answer, I would simply say, “I’m not sure, but when I find out I can email you the answer” and they would say “great!”. Lastly, I would always advertise the volunteer checkbox to people, especially to college students.

So overall, petitioning isn’t hard once you pitch to a couple of people. Practice makes perfect, and after all, the worst a person can say to you asking them to sign the petition is “No”.

I created this guide to help all of the upcoming CCAN petitioners, hopefully it helps!

 

Uses

  • Can be for stating grievances, initiating a law, organizing a union.
  • Can be used to show public support for a cause or an issue.
  • Educates the people.

 

Tips

  • Don’t feel intimidated! Most people act like they don’t want to be approached but in reality a lot of people are nicer than they seem.
  • Keep a smile on your face, look approachable, be nice and energetic.
  • You don’t have to ask every single person that walks by but try to keep a goal of at least 10-15 people an hour.
  • While you are explaining your petition go ahead and get the clipboard in their hands so they can be looking the petition over.

 

Communication Points

  • First and foremost, always say Hi ! That is just common courtesy and remember you need them to sign something for you so you want to be polite.
  • Have a cool attention grabber after you say hi. For instance, when I petitioned for offshore wind I started with “Hi! Would you like to sign a petition for clean energy?!” After that, the person would usually follow up with “hmm tell me more” and boom there is your moment to explain and sell the petition.
  • Be sure to introduce yourself, organization, and your cause. People aren’t going to affiliate themselves with organization/cause/issue they know nothing about.
  • Always emphasize the problem, but emphasize the solution even more!
  • Your explanation does not have to be long, a quick elevator speech is all it takes. You don’t want to take too much of the person’s time.
  • Always tell them that your organization loves volunteers and is more than open to anyone that wants to help.

 

  • Lastly, always thank them for their time!