How to create a petition with NationBuilder


A petition is a great way to galvanize your supporters and encourage them to invite other people to join your cause.

You'll need to enable the petition feature in your nation to create petitions. Go to Settings > Defaults > Basics. Check the box next to "Enable petitions" and then click the "Update Addons" button at the bottom of the page. 

Here are a few tips to help you create a successful petition:

  • Consider issues or current events that are fresh and are being mentioned online and in the media. People are much more likely to take action on issues they have recently read or heard about.
  • Real urgency for the petition will help encourage people to sign it.
  • Choose a powerful and memorable headline for your petition and keep the petition text itself relatively short. 

Creating a petition, step by step

Go to Websites > {Your Website Name} > New Page. Give a name to your petition. The slug will auto-populate based on the name, but you can change it if you like. Select Petition as the page type and decide whether to include it in the top nav or support nav. Click the Create New Page button.

You’ll be taken to Petition > Petition text, which is where you can enter the text of the petition. You’ll want to keep the petition itself as concise as possible. Be very clear on what signing the petition means. A time-bound or time-sensitive petition often gains more traction than an “evergreen” issue framed without urgency. The petition text will appear right above the button that allows people to sign the petition.

Add video and other media

As with other content areas that will be displayed on your website, you can insert an image by first saving it to the Files menu then adding it using the insert/edit image link. We recommend saving videos and other forms of media for the Intro blurb. Once you have completed this section, click the Save petition text button to save what you’ve written.

Next go to Petition > Intro blurb. Here you can edit the Headline for the petition. You can also provide additional information to give context to the petition in the intro blurb. This blurb will appear above the petition text.

Here you can include an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the petition. Even if the issue is all over the media, assume visitors haven’t heard about it. If you have a powerful video or news clip that illustrates the need to sign the petition, consider embedding it in the intro blurb.

Our integration will allow you to easily include video or other material from another site - simply place the URL on its own line within the content editor as plain text.

Next go to Petition > Settings. First you'll decide what to call a signature. While we recommend "signature" or "endorsement," you can get creative here. When someone signs the petition on your website, she will click a button that says “Add signature” where “signature” is replaced by the word you place in this text box.

Define your goals

Next you can define a signature goal. If you place a numeric goal in this field, a progress bar will be placed on the page. We recommend setting a signature goal and choosing a number that is realistically attainable. Progress thermometers are known to increase participation.

Note that you can also use goals to track petition signatures in your nation. Goals will track the total number of people who have signed any petition in your nation. Learn more about how to use goals.

If you have collected additional signatures on this petition offline or on another site, you can enter the number of additional signatures to add to the total in the next field. Please note that these offline signatures will not be counted in your petition signatures goals total, but will be counted in the progress thermometer on your petition page. 

In order to sign your petition, someone will need to provide her first name, last name and email address at a minimum. If she is signed into your site using Facebook or Twitter, she can sign the petition without providing additional information.

You can choose to ask for additional items when people sign the petition: you can ask for a photo, phone, and address and you can also require those items. We recommend limiting the amount of information a person is required to provide in order to sign your petition. In fact, the fewer items a person could fill in to complete your petition, the more likely she is to complete the form.

You can decide whether to ask for volunteers on the petition page. A person who wants to volunteer will be directed to your website’s primary volunteer page for more information.

If people do not volunteer when submitting a signature, you can decide what page they should land on next. If a page is not listed in this box, a person signing the petition will remain on the petition page after submitting her signature. Regardless of your choice here, the signer will be encouraged to share the petition via Facebook and Twitter.

You can assign people who sign the petition to a point person. If a person submitting feedback already has a point person, that designation will not be changed by the selection made here.

You can attach tags to people who sign your petition in the next text box. Multiple tags should be separated by commas.

Chose whether to follow up with petition backers

Like other NationBuilder pages, you can add the donor to a path, assign membership, and add tags to any person who uses this page to donate. You may also assign a point person to the donor, if a point person does not already exist for that person’s profile. These tools will allow you to track and engage your signers in the future.

Once you have completed these elements of Petition settings click the Save settings button to save your changes.

To customize messaging to your petition backers, go to Petition settings > Autoresponse.

By default, an email will automatically be sent to each signer. You can change this setting by unchecking the box next to “Automatically send signer an email.”

We strongly recommend using the autoresponse function to thank people for signing the petition and to encourage them to spread the word.

You can change the broadcaster who sends the automatic messages. The primary broadcaster for your website is set here by default. You can then edit the subject line and body of the email.

Encourage social sharing

You may wish to add information to the autoresponse email encouraging the signer to share the petition on Facebook and Twitter. You may want to include your suggested Tweet and Facebook post here to provide her with suggested text for her post.

If you have made any changes to the autoresponse, click the Save autoresponse email button to save your changes.

You'll definitely want to check out Petition > Text keywords. Here you can define the keyword a mobile phone user needs to text to one of your broadcasters in order to sign the petition.

In the broadcaster drop-down you can select any of your broadcasters who have a virtual phone number attached.

Next you define the keyword - which must be one word without spaces. You can then write an autoresponse of up to 160 characters that will be sent to a texter after he signs your petition.

Review and edit the list of people who have already signed your petition under Petition > Signatures

You can also easily add your backers to a list from this screen. If you forgot indicate a person tag for signers in Petition > Settings when the petition was initially launched, you can add previous signers to a list to batch update them with the tag.

You can also enter in new signatures using the form on the left side. This is a great way to input signatures gathered offline. In order to add a signature to the petition, you must at least enter the person’s First Name, Last Name, and email address or phone number.

You can view a map of your petition signatures under Petition > Map. Please note that only people with addresses can be mapped. They may have previously provided your organization with their address, or they may have included it with their petition signature.

If you click Petition > Print PDF, a PDF of your petition signatures will be generated and downloaded to your computer.

The PDF will include:

  • Petition headline
  • Petition text
  • Total signatures count

List of signers, including Name, State, and Comment (if the person did not include her state or a comment, those areas will be blank)

If you click Petition > Download CSV, a .csv file of your petition signatures will be generated and downloaded to your computer. The file can be opened in Microsoft Excel or any spreadsheet software. This document will not include the text of your petition. It will include NationBuilder ID, Name, State, Comment, and the day/time the signature was created.

Convey the importance of your petition with custom social sharing messages

sallys_giraffe_ranch_petition_share_settings.pngIt’s extremely important to encourage signers to share your petition via social media. You can customize these settings under Settings > Social media. By default people will be prompted to face tweet the petition. It can be extremely helpful to edit the default face tweet to include an urgent reason to sign the petition. As with other default face tweets, a link to the page will be included at the end automatically.

You can also choose a thumbnail image for Facebook here and that can also be useful - ideally there is also at least one image on your petition page. Including a thumbnail here ensures that the petition image is picked up rather than other images associated with your website.

Related how to guides

If you’re unclear on how this feature works, please ask a question. If you would like to see changes to this feature, please submit a suggestion.

Not finding what you're looking for? Browse the Website FAQs