Activist Toolkit: Petitions, Tabling & Canvassing

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1 Activist Toolkit: Petitions, Tabling & Canvassing A toolkit for volunteers, partners and advocates to use in collecting signatures to support of the death with dignity movement. Oregon and Washington advocates: before using this guide, please contact your state outreach staff to coordinate with ongoing activities

2 Petitions Are a Critical tool The simplest of political acts remains among the most important currencies in pubic policy: signing a petition. Petitions, like letters, are monitored and tracked by public officials and legislative staff, and tallies are kept on the numbers of supporters on either side of an issue. Strong community support, demonstrated through large numbers of petition signatures, can help politicians feel more comfortable supporting a controversial issue. This brief guide offers you some basic ideas and best practices in gathering signatures on petitions for death with dignity laws, and presenting those petitions to your local, state and federal elected officials, and to Compassion & Choices. Petition language: There is a basic petition in support of the death-with-dignity movement and its policies in the back of this guide which you can use to ask people for their general support. For petitions on behalf of (or calling for) specific legislation in your state, contact Compassion & Choices for appropriate language and legislative updates. Tip #1: Always copy C&C Regardless of what kind of petition you are using (more on that later) or whom you are petitioning, always send a copy of the completed petition to Compassion & Choices so that we can track and aggregate all the grassroots activism like yours, and amplify it in our meetings with legislators. Compassion & Choices: Petitions, Tabling and Canvassing p.1

3 Best Practices with Petitions There are two basic types of petitions that Compassion & Choices works with: general support petitions and legislative petitions. There are many similarities when working with either kind of petition, like making sure to send copies of all signed petitions to Compassion & Choices, being courteous and respectful whenever you ask someone to show their support with a signature, and making sure you are using approved language in your petition. But there are also some important differences: General support petitions: Like the one in the back of this guide, general support petitions ask people to offer their signature in general support of the death with dignity platform, but not for specific legislation. You should be ready to answer basic questions about Compassion & Choices and about death-with-dignity policies. Legislative petitions: Petitions that support specific pieces of legislation already proposed, or seek the creation of specific legislation, are called legislative petitions. It is important to check with Compassion & Choices before drafting or circulating a legislative petition to be sure you are using the best language to support endof-life choice in your state. For legislative petitions, you should be able to answer specific questions about the legislation you are supporting and be ready to explain your support for its provisions. Whichever type of petition you are working with, remember these simple rules: 1. Ask each person individually to support death with dignity with their signature. 2. Be courteous and respectful to everyone, even those who may disagree. 3. If someone appears to want to avoid interacting with you, let them. Never force an interaction. 4. Be ready to answer questions about death with dignity\and end-of-life choice. 5. Always be clear that you are working with Compassion & Choices, and direct any additional inquiries to the website at 6. Always return a copy of the signed petitions to Compassion & Choices at Tip #2: SET A GOAL Even a modest goal like 20 signatures will keep you on task and focused on accomplishing your objective. After you gather 20 signatures, repeat. After five occasions, you can present 100 signatures to your legislator. GOAL Tip #3: OFFER A TREAT Something as simple as a cute sticker or a piece of candy can make someone feel appreciated. It may not sway many skeptics, but it s a great way to give thanks for someone s support and presents a friendly face to a community that may be weary of politics. Compassion & Choices: Petitions, Tabling and Canvassing p.2

4 Make It a Contest Getting 20, 40, or even 60 petitions signed by yourself is a great start. Now think about how to multiply your activism and really get some attention All you need is to identify some like-minded friends and colleagues; and recruit them into your petition drive. Offer a prize for the person to return the most signatures by a certain date or for the first one to submit 50 signatures. A $10 gift card to coffee or another treat is a great prize that is basic and inexpensive. A few tips: 1. Put together a list of at least 10 people you think might participate 2. Draft an announcing your petition drive and your prize offer*. Attach the petition and provide some basic pointers for gathering signatures (see page 3). 3. Consider expanding your drive to social media* by posting on Facebook or Twitter and asking if anyone would commit to gathering 25 signatures. Ask people to message you privately, and then get in touch on and send them the petition. 4. Announce the winner of your petition drive on Facebook or Twitter, and/or acknowledge them in person or via to your petition group. *Please DO NOT offer a prize for activity on a commercial social media platform like Facebook or Twitter. Prizes are great for your personal outreach efforts, or for use at events or when tabling. Compassion & Choices: Petitions, Tabling and Canvassing p.3

5 Tabling Tabling and petition signing go hand in hand, like peanut butter and jelly. Having a table gives an opportunity to bring death-with-dignity issues into your community in a friendly, visible way. It also gives you a base of operations for your petition drive, allows people to explore and self-serve, and is a distribution point for information and materials. A nicely executed table also gives important brand visibility to Compassion & Choices and the death with dignity movement. A few basic guidelines: 1. Location: think of a good spot to set up a table where people are accustomed to displays and vendors. If you are interested in tabling on private property like a mall or a movie theater, always get permission first. To table in a public park, on a college campus, or at a farmer s market or other event, a permit or registration can sometimes be required. Use common sense; if you don t have specific permission and get asked to leave, then relocate your table to a permissible public space. 2. It is always a good idea to have a table partner. Here are three great reasons: 1. You ll be able to get more signatures on petitions 2. You ll have more fun. 3. Everything is safer in pairs 3. Make sure to have the latest Compassion & Choices materials (quarterly magazine, palm cards, etc.) on hand to give out, and have your petitions on clip boards with pens at the ready. 4. Be creative and have fun More people will be interested in approaching a table that is fun-looking and friendly. Signs, prizes and treats are great ways to entice people to say hello. So is a smile Compassion & Choices: Petitions, Tabling and Canvassing p.4

6 TABLING CHECKLIST Here is a list of the basic steps to take, and things you ll need for a great tabling experience to educate your community about death with dignity and Compassion & Choices. Select a date and time for your tabling. Be realistic about how long you can table. A minimum of two hours and a maximum of six are good guidelines to start with. Select a location: Public parks, popular pedestrian areas and college campuses make great choices for tabling. Sometimes private spaces like malls, shopping centers or swapmeets have great potential as well. Events like street fairs or community festivals are always productive. Farmers markets are lots of fun Investigate and get permission: Wherever you decide to table, look into any posted guidelines for setting up a display, or contact the management of the facility or event to get formal permission to table, when required. Recruit at least one tabling partner to join you. If you are going to table for longer than three hours, you should consider changing shifts and recruiting two more tablers so you can each work a two-hour shift. Secure a table. A six-foot table with folding legs is a very standard size, easily transportable, and works well for tabling. You can probably borrow one, and they are sold at most home stores. But any light-weight easy-to-transport table will do. Tabling supplies: Clipboards (at least four) for petitions, pens (a dozen), stickers, candy, or other inexpensive and plentiful courtesy gift. Materials from Compassion & Choices: quarterly magazine, palm card, local/state flyer or brochure, promotion for upcoming local events Talking points: Make sure and get the latest messaging points and updates from Compassion & Choices. Visit the Volunteer Action Center for the latest. Make it shine Use Compassion & Choices-branded materials and your own creativity to bring attention to your table. Make it look great and people will really notice. Create a colorful banner, or use other materials to convey your message. Some basic supplies like bottled water, snacks and a small first-aid kit are strongly recommended for any tabling activity. Goal: Always set goals for your tabling experience. Based on where you are going and how long you ll be there, set a goal for signatures gathered, conversations had and materials distributed. Goals: Signatures Gathered Materials Distributed Conversations

7 Canvassing Canvassing is a more direct approach than tabling because it involves going house to house (or business to business) and asking people for their support. Many people appreciate the neighborhood touch that canvassing brings, but some others are bothered by being disturbed at home. Always use good judgment and be aware that you may be interrupting or even unwelcome. Canvassers should always emphasize safety: Only canvass in an area or neighborhood that you know, like where you live. Never canvass alone. Always go with a friend or colleague. Don t knock on a door if there are loud pets or other obstacles present. Never go inside a house, even if invited. Canvassing Tips: 1. Have a clipboard with your petition at the ready, along with some basic materials on Compassion & Choices, several pens, and perhaps some stickers or candy to offer as a thank you. 2. Plan what you are going to say when someone opens the door, and practice it several times. 3. Smile and make eye contact while you're speaking. Introduce yourself at the beginning. 4. If the person you're speaking to is very busy or is strongly not supportive, it's best to move on quickly. Canvassing is about finding the people who already agree with us, so don't spend time debating people on the other side 5. For door-to-door, if there's a doorbell, push hard and listen for the sound of the bell. 6. If there isn't a doorbell or you don't hear it ringing, don't be afraid to knock. And be sure you knock loudly enough so that they can hear you 7. Once you see someone approaching the door, be sure to wave so they know you are friendly and want to talk with them. 8. Canvassing can be intimidating for people who haven't done it before, so never go alone. 9. Always end the conversation on a positive note. If you follow these rules and use good judgment, you can gather many signatures and raise awareness about death with dignity in your neighborhood. Compassion & Choices: Petitions, Tabling and Canvassing p.6

8 We, the undersigned, feel strongly that terminally ill, mentally competent adults should have the right to medication and support services they can use to achieve a peaceful death. Specifically, we call for legislation in the state of to ensure these rights, and to require medical professional to make more options available to the terminally ill. Name Address City + State ZIP 1. Please send (via , FAX, or post) the original signed page(s) of your petition to your legislator. Please check with Compassion & Choices if you are uncertain which legislator you should target. Remember that Oreon petitions should go directly to Compassion & Choices. 2. Please remember to send a copy of all petition pages to Compassion & Choices: 4224 NE Halsey St., Suite 335 Portland, OR FAX:

9 PLEASE STAY IN TOUCH Complete the following response card to stay up to date on death with dignity issues from Compassion & Choices: First & last name: Mailing address: City, state, zip: Phone: I m interested in: [ ] Volunteering [ ] Staying informed [ ] Making a contribution [ ] Dying well 1. Please remember to send this page to: Compassion & Choices 4224 NE Halsey St., Suite 335 Portland, OR FAX

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