Petitions: E-Advocacy In PowerBase

Petitions are public web pages that you can use to mobilize on-line support for an issue. By inviting people to "sign" the petition (by adding their contact information) you can educate people on the issue and collect their contact information so you can continue mobilizing them in the future.

There are three kinds of petitions available through PowerBase:

  • Standard Petitions: Essentially, an online sign-on form - you write text, create the petition, and then the petition form records the signer's contact information. A List of signers can be printed and delivered.

  • E-Advocacy petition, static method: Works like a standard petition, but you can add one or more targets - all of whom receive an email with the petition message. You can also set it so the signer can personalize the message. The target must have an email address. We call this the static method.

  • E-Advocacy petition, dynamic method: Just like the first two, but adds the option for the signer to provide their address which is used to identify a target who will receive the petition message from the signer. An example of this would be using city council districts so that voters can write their council member. For this method to work, you typically need a contract with a company such as Cicero to perform the automatic address to district mapping. We call this the dynamic method.

Standard Petitions

Regardless of the kind of petition you want to use, all petitions start as a standard petition.

Click Campaigns -> New Petition.

Fill out a title and introduction that will be displayed to people who are directed to your petition.

If this petition is part of a bigger campaign, you can optionally choose the campaign with which to associate petition responses.

Next, select a Contact Profile. This profile determines what information is recorded about the person signing the petition (e.g. name, address, etc). If you are not sure what to pick, use the provided "Petition Email Contact Info" profile. By default, it asks for name, postal address and email address.

With a standard petition, the "Activity Profile" is optional. You can include it if you want to ask the signer some questions specific to the topic or petition.

To create custom Petition questions, create a custom data group that is used for Activities of the type Petition Signature. Then, create a profile that includes these fields.

However, if you are just interested in collecting contact information, leave the "Activity Profile" empty.

Fill out a Thank You Page title and message that people will receive when they fill out the petition.

And lastly, decide whether you want to by-pass email confirmation or not.

By default (with this option un-checked), anyone who signs the petition will have to check their email and click through a link sent to them before their petition signature is recorded.

If you are planning a short campaign and will be taking this petition offline after it ends, by-passing email confirmations will help boost the total number of signer and make it generally easier t use. However, for longer campaigns, spammers will discover the petition and you will get more garbage petitions if you by-pass the email confirmation.


For more information on the petition process, check out the CiviCRM User and Administrator guide.

E-Advocacy petitions.

This help file documents an additional petition feature provided by the Petition Email Extension: allowing the petition signer to send an email to one or more campaign targets. When someone completes the petition, an email can be sent on behalf of them to a target with an activity documenting this email.

To enable the E-Advocacy options, click the "Send an email to a target" option from the petition creation page. NOTE: if you do not see this option, you or your administrator will need to go to "Administer>System Settings>Extensions". Once there, select the option to "Install" the "Petition Email" extension.

Now, enter the email subject and email message that you want to send to the target. This can be the same or a different message than you are displaying in the Introduction message.

If you want to give people the option of customizing their message before sending, then:

  • Go up to the "Activity Profile" field and choose "Petition Email Activity Fields"
  • In the Custom Subject field, select "Customize the Email Subject"
  • In the Custom Message field, select "Customize the Message"

With these settings in place, petition signers will be presented with your default message, but will be given the option to modify it before sending.

Static Method

If you want the email to go to one or more targets for everyone who signs the petition, click the "Target Individuals (Static Method)" checkbox.

Then, in the field provided, enter a list of names and emails that should receive the petition in the format:

 'First name Last name' <>

Every time someone fills out the petition, your targets will receive an email. Be sure to choose not to bypass email verification or disable the petition after your campaign is over to avoid sending spam to your targets.

Dynamic Method

If you want the email to go to a different person (e.g. legislator) depending on the address of the person who is filling in the petition, click the "Target a Group (Dynamic Method). You can optionally pick both the dynamic and static methods.

Then, choose the Group you want to target (a pre-created group of, for example, state legislators). Then, pick the field used to match (for example, the state legislative district). With this example setup, if a petition signer's state legislative district is 10, then their email would go to the contact in the state legislators group who's district is also 10.

Next, choose the email location field. Your targets may have more than one email address entered for the record. This field ensures that the petition goes to the right address. If your targets are imported with their address coded to “Main” or “Work” then select Main or Work in this field. You may want to create a custom location type to give you more flexibility. For example, you may want to put the email address of a staffer for a given campaign.

If you leave location field empty, then the target's primary email address will be used.

If you select a location field and the target does not have an email address that uses that location, then their primary email address will be used.

Initial Setup

Before you see the proper group and matching field options, some initial setup is required.

If you are interested in using this approach, please contact PTP Support and we can set this up for you.

  1. Populate your profile that determines which fields can be used for matching a petition signer to a target. This profile has already been created for you, but it needs to be populated with fields. The name of the profile is: Petition Email Available Matching fields. Click the fields link next to this profile to add fields. This profile controls which fields are available to be used as matching fields when you configure a petition to only send an email to the elected officials representing the petition signer. You should add all fields that you might want to use (e.g. state district id, city district id, etc.).

  2. Create a Location Type to hold the email address of your targets. This step is optional, but ensures that you have more control over which email address an elected official receives their email message. For example, with some targets, you may want a particular staff person to receive the email, rather than the official email address of the politician. Go to: Administer → Customize data and Screens → Drop Down Options → Location Types. Click New Location Type and enter Target for the name and enter Location used to contact petition targets for the description.

  3. Import your targets and assign to a groups. If you are importing members of different elected offices, be sure to put them in different groups (e.g. separate groups for state assembly members and state senators).

Petition Email: General Workflow Summary

The petition email feature is very flexible. Following is a suggested work-flow, which can be modified depending on your needs. The example work-flow assumes that you want to dynamically send email to targets based on the petition signer's actual elected officials (e.g. state senators and state assembly members) and that you have CiviCRM Cicero configured to automatically lookup each petition signers electoral information.

  1. Create your outreach group. This group includes all the contacts in your database that you want to announce the petition to and encourage to sign it.
  2. Configure Cicero to match all of these records. This step is typically scheduled and make take a few hours so be sure to plan ahead (see the Cicero Documentation for more information)
  3. If you haven't already, create your target groups (e.g. State Senators or City Council members) and ensure that their electoral fields are up to date (if not, configure Cicero to match their records)
  4. Create your petition (see below for the details)
  5. Run the Petition Email report (Reports → Campaign Reports → New Campaign Report. Then choose PetitionEmail. You can use this report to review how the people in your outreach group will be mapped to people in your target group.
  6. Send a Mass Email to your outreach group with a link to the petition that includes a hash (this ensures that their contact information will be auto-populated). The email should also include a link that does not include the hash for people to use if the email has been forwarded to a list.
  7. Re-run the PetitionEmail report to see who has signed the petition and what email messages have been sent.

Checking your matches

Once you have created your petition, you may want to check to ensure that your contacts will match the targets that you expect them to match.

You can take that step by running the PetitionEmail report. Go to Reports → Campaign Reports → New Campaign Report. Then click the PetitionEmail report.

Select the “Contacts matched” from the Display Column. Then, configure the criteria to match your Petition and select the group that you want to which you want to send the petition signing request.

The report will show a list of all the contacts in your group, along with the targets that they will match on.

Send away

When you are ready to go, create a new mailing to send to your outreach group. In the body of the mailing, include a link to the petition signing page (You can find that link by editing your petition and looking for the “Links to sign the petition” section).

You will find two different links here.

The standard link looks something like this:

That's the link you send people who are not in your database, for example, if you are posting to your web site or your social networks.

If you are sending the link by PowerBase mass email, you should use the personalized version, which includes a few extra pieces and looks something like this:{contact.checksum}&cid={contact.contact_id}

If you use this URL, then the contacts information will be pre-filled on the form, making it much easier for them to sign your petition.

Admin Tasks
Collecting and Managing Contact Information