Everything old is new again: the humble petition

by Meg Dawes, VP, Integrated Marketing, CDR Fundraising Group

The staple of many an advocacy organization’s mail tactics is the request to mail back a petition or survey.  So mail petitions work for advocacy organizations.  But I’m here to tell you petitions work for non-advocacy organizations and non-mail asks. 

There’s a psychological reason: when you ask someone for a small favor and they do it, they are more likely to take on a bigger favor to maintain a consistent self-image.  One of the famous examples used by Cialdini to support consistency as one of his basic building blocks of influence involved signs.  It won’t surprise you to learn that few people wanted to put a large and intentionally unattractive Drive Safely sign in their front yard.  However, when people were first asked to put a postcard in the window about safe driving, four times as many people were then willing to erect the eyesore.  They’d already determined they were the type of people who would display something about safe driving, so the larger sign seemed like a difference in degree, not kind.

So let’s look at a digital campaign with a non-advocacy ask to see if a petition, reframed as a pledge, can be an effective lead generator and fundraiser.

Working with Disabled American Veterans, we launched a multi-prong digital strategy in May leading up to Memorial Day: broadly targeted ads encouraging potential new constituents to sign a pledge to honor fallen heroes, boosted social posts aimed at attracting current followers, and emails to constituents about the pledge.



All in all, the pledge had 9,662 signers — over 3800 of whom were new to file.  About half of all signers were from Facebook, allowing DAV to get their contact information and talk to them without paying a Facebook toll. 

And the campaign raised over $14,000.  The email alone—which had no monetary ask until after the petition was signed—for the pledge raised more money than every ask email that month combined.  The consistency principle works online also.

If this has been helpful, you may want to join us for Breaking potential donors out of digital walled gardens, a free webinar later today.  We’ll go through the details of this campaign and several others that help you get constituents with whom you can have a conversation without Facebook or Google in the way.

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