The Power of Petitions: Still One of the Best Ways to Make Thousands of Voices Heard
“128” />The Power of Petitions: Still One of the Best Ways to Make Thousands of Voices Heard — Guest blog post by Dan Hawkins, Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Research, National Association of Community Health Centers
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” –Mother Teresa
These days it seems like there’s no end to the number of electronic options to ‘get involved’ available to take action on something you care about. You can send an email to your elected officials; write a letter to the editor of your local paper on a website; text, Twitter or Facebook your friends or everyone in the world for that matter. You can even ‘click to call’ from your computer screen and be connected live to your Member of Congress.
That’s all nice and good, but sometimes the ‘old school’ methods of advocacy are still the best tools to make an impact. Folks who don’t have computers or smart phones (and there are still millions of them) still need ways to be heard and even if you can send an email, sometimes signing a petition and/or writing a letter are better ways to make your advocacy case to policymakers. There is a different reaction when a Member of Congress receives a stack of petition signatures or patient letters on their desk than when their email box just gets filled up. It’s hard to ignore that stack of paper that represents thousands, or millions of people who support a particular issue. They have to PAY ATTENTION to what all those people are asking for!
I personally believe – and I have personally seen – how Petitions and Letter Campaigns really can (and DO!) have an impact on how elected officials vote, make policy, and relate to their constituents. But, to make a difference a successful petition or letter campaign has to be BIG – it’s a numbers game! While collecting 10 or even 100 signatures or letters is an important step in your efforts, the objective of any petition drive has to be demonstrating massive support for your cause and that means collecting huge numbers of signatures and/or letters. When 1,000 people sign a petition it sends a message, but when 1,000,000 people sign a petition it makes a statement. Successful advocacy doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact it shouldn’t be, but it does require hard work and a commitment to your cause.
Collecting signatures on a petition or letter may not seem like an important act, but when you help to engage hundreds or even thousands of others in signing a petition, each of their voices is amplified and you will have helped to send a clear message to Congress about the importance of supporting the Health Centers Program. Imagine your personal effort being part of collecting 1 Million Signatures & Letters we want to deliver to Congress by this year’s NACHC Policy & Issues Forum – March 21st, 2012 – and one of the 2 Million Signatures & Letters by July 4th, 2012. You can just sign on or you can help to collect any number of signatures, but think of that stack of papers being put on your Member of Congress’ desk – it won’t be as thick or as effective without your involvement.
Check out the Campaign For America’s Health Centers’ Petition Advocacy Guide to get started at your Health Center TODAY!
** Remember to save copies of all your collected materials so they can be tallied and used throughout the year. You can submit your petition signatures and letters to policymakers at ALL levels of government and they can be used more than once to make your case. Be sure to send the tally of all your collected materials to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can track your efforts and help us meet our collection goals this March and July.