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Sierra Club Scrapbook

September 01, 2011

Using Custom Comments to Deepen Activist Pool

Flavia-de-la-Fuente

By Flavia de la Fuente, Beyond Coal Campaign Organizer

[That's Flavia, above at left; at right, a Chicago Sierra Club phonebank.]

Last week, we sent out an email blast asking folks in the Austin area to sign a petition to Mayor Lee Leffingwell, asking him to work on retiring Austin's share of the Fayette coal plant. We also wanted to build a prospect pool of potential volunteers.

We got a huge response, so to cut through the list I decided to prioritize people who had added their own comments to the petition, a feature on these petitions that we generally include but of which we haven't really taken advantage.

My ask was a letter-to-the-editor (LTE), but the New Thing was the fact that I directly referenced their comments as my reason for calling them, and asked them to expand on the comments they made and turn it into a letter-to-the-editor.

The script went like this: "Hi, my name is Flavia and I work for your local Sierra Club in Austin. I'm calling because I read the comment you made on an online petition you signed to the Mayor asking him to retire the Fayette coal plant. I was wondering if you would be able to expand your thoughts on _________ and write a letter-to-the-editor." 

The comments ranged from personal health concerns, to concerns about small children, to pitches for geothermal energy investment. For each person, I adjusted the pitch.

I phone-banked the list myself, and the preliminary results were excellent. In just an hour, five people said yes, they would write an LTE, two said they were interested in having a one-on-one meeting with me, and one person who declined to write an LTE said they wanted to get involved in the future. Plus three people for whom I left messages called back saying yes, they'd write an LTE. So eight people total agreed to write a letter-to-the-editor—pretty good for an hour's work by one person.

Have a success story to share? We'd like to hear about it. Go to the Success Stories project on the Sierra Club's Activist Network and let others learn from your experience.

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