Petition Power: Using Petitions to Grow Your Donor Base

Blog contribution by YNPN member Kim Johnson, owner of Faceted Media, a socially conscious PR firm

Petition Power: Using Petitions to Grow Your Donor Base
Tips for Nonprofits


Nonprofits always need new donors that are passionate about their cause. Print ads and television spots can be very pricey. What are some ways that nonprofits can affordably increase their donor email list? One way is using an online petition. After much research, we have determined that there is just one petition platform that helps you grow your list. The rest are great at getting the word out about your cause, but won’t add to your donor database (they don’t allow you to download signer email addresses). Here, we’ll discuss a brief overview of how petitions can help and which one to use for outreach in your nonprofit so that you take the most efficient road possible when using this method.

Digital Marketing + Donor Email Lists (Hint: It’s Super Crucial)

Internet marketing is an important  outreach strategy for many organizations. Thus, a great deal of donor interaction exists on the digital platform and utilizes  social media, directories, websites, email, and digital ads, just to name a few. One of the most important and fundamental tools of the set is your “house” list - an email list of donors and supporters who have opted into your system to be able to receive special offers, newsletters, and event news.. Even if you do everything else perfectly, surviving in the digital era relies heavily upon having a substantial email list. According to an article on Huffington Post: “Your email list is your lifeblood. It’s comprised of all the people who’ve chosen to be part of your promotional campaign.” Now that we’ve covered that concept, let’s chat about a creative and ingenious way to build that email list!

Online Petitions for List Growth

We’ve all been on Facebook, or checked our email, and found a request to sign a petition for some worthy cause or another. With a recent increase in activism opportunities, there’s a different cause every day worth fighting for. phrased it beautifully on their website, stating, “Governments, companies, and individuals value their reputations and feel accountable to their neighbors, constituents, and customers. When hundreds or even thousands of people raise their voices about an issue they care about, the message is very hard to ignore.” Petitions are a simple and straight-forward tactic to get your audience involved in a cause that can better the world, right a wrong, or change one life in a positive way. They are methods for us to come together and unite… and they’re also the glue between your mission and your donors’. When the two merge, you have successfully reached your audience and helped your nonprofit to thrive.

The Rules of the List

When you are developing and nurturing your email list, there is one thing to remember above all else: you must allow your donor to sign up willingly and make it 100% clear what they’re signing up for. Anything other than that approach, and you run the risk of spamming them, a huge no-no. If you pull their email without their direct consent to be contacted for future promotions, the potential donor is going to feel like you’ve taken advantage of them and likely won’t support your organization. This is where petitions can be incredibly helpful and  genuine, as  it is up to the signer whether or not to align themselves with the cause. They are in the pilot’s seat.

Which Petition Site is the Best?

After thorough research, I’ve found that many of the online petition sites do not allow you to download the email addresses of those who sign your petition. Imagine the frustration of setting up your entire campaign and having your petition go viral, only to find out at the end that you don’t have any way to contact your signers. You got the word out, but didn’t help your nonprofit….arguably misusing donation money and your personal time…. So, do yourself a favor and use Go Petition (the premium service offers you access to all emails for $30 for the first month or $50 for two). It’s the only one we found that allows this. And, if you need extra specific guidance about how to set-up your campaign and leverage it,check out this super comprehensive article that breaks it all down step by step.

Genuine Connections through Cause Marketing

By connecting with your consumers via a petition you accomplish a couple of things: 1. You share your view on a more intimate level. It gives you a space slightly removed from your nonprofit’s general operations to express a mission, or concern, and to receive support for it. 2. It gives your consumers an opportunity to affect change directly and to relate to your company in a unique way (assuming it’s a cause they share opinions on). 3. If you successfully hit the mark with your cause and donor base, they are infinitely more likely to want to continue attending your events and donating as well as staying in the loop on your future endeavors.


To succeed as a nonprofit today, digital marketing has become not only an asset, but a necessity. Beyond that, we have become a society determined to fix the mistakes of our past and prevent more from happening. While signing a petition may not feel as dramatic as chaining yourself to a tree, they have become effective and valuable tools in enacting change on a mass level. Share your passion and concerns with your donors and the results will not disappoint. We are all human and connecting on a real level is the best way for us all to thrive in every avenue of life. Give it a try!


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