Caption: Carl Baker tabling at a March for Science 04/17 event, where he got over 60 Pro-Truth Pledge sign-ups (Courtesy of Carl Baker)
Great to hear that you want to gather signatures for the Pro-Truth Pledge (PTP)! In-person signature-gathering is one of the most effective methods of getting more people to sign up.
We regularly have people gather 20-40 signatures when they are doing canvassing, meaning gathering signatures while walking around an event or standing in a well-travelled venue. We have people gather 50-70 names when tabling, meaning when the PTP secures a table at an appropriate event. You can make a big difference by canvassing and tabling to fight lies and protect truth through promoting the PTP.
Preparing for Gathering Signatures
We have all the basic materials you need for gathering signatures.
Start by ordering some PTP merchandise, such as a shirt, hat, or tote bag, to make yourself visible and convey your message. Many people will see it and be impacted by it, checking out the PTP even if they don’t talk to you.
For example, Agnes Vishnevkin (the Vice President of Intentional Insights, the nonprofit organization leading the PTP project, and my wife) told me how when she went to a store carrying a PTP tote bag, she was approached by someone who wanted to know what the pledge was all about. If one person is bold enough to approach and ask, you better believe that dozens if not hundreds more took out their phone and went to the website!
Caption: PTP tote bag of the kind Agnes took to the store (Courtesy of Pro-Truth Pledge website)
It takes the merchandise a couple of weeks to arrive, but you certainly don’t have to wait for it to get there in order to start gathering signatures! So let’s talk about getting your paperwork in order. At this link is a Google Document folder with fliers, a sign-up form, the text of the PTP itself and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and plenty of other materials, along with instructions to make a binder for people to sign the PTP.
The binder is really important, as it makes it very convenient for you to carry around everything you will need to get signatures. This link provides all the instructions you will need to create a PTP binder. The supplies include a white 3-ring binder (1” or 1.5”) with a clear cover and an inside pocket, dividers to separate the contents of the binder, and a 3-hole punch. You can get the supplies at any drug or office store near you. Then, the printed materials include flyers, the text of the PTP, the FAQs, sign-up sheets, and optionally business cards. If you don’t have a printer at home, use a local public library or copy/print store to print the supplies, and you can access a 3-hole punch in the same venue. In that case, print out several hundred flyers and fifty sign-up sheets at once to avoid having the extra hassle of going to the store again when you run out.
The binder provides you with the basics you will need to gather signatures when either canvassing or tabling. When canvassing, you’ll just walk around or stand in place, hand out flyers to people from your binder, and ask them to sign the pledge. When tabling, you will take out the flyers, the PTP text, the FAQs, the sign-up sheets, and if you have them business cards, and spread them out on a table. For tabling, you can also get two clipboards, as you will likely get more than one person interested at once, and you don’t want to make them wait. To come back to the tote bag, it’s pretty convenient for carrying your binder and clipboards.
Caption: Picture of PTP binder with clipboards for tabling (Courtesy of Agnes Vishnevkin)
Financial Challenges? No Problem!
Now what if you’re excited about gathering signatures, but have financial challenges purchasing merchandise, printing materials, and buying binders? What if you’re a “broke-ass college student” as one PTP volunteer told me? No worries, we got that covered.
Generous donors for the PTP have offered to cover the signature-gathering costs of anyone interested in gathering signatures, but having financial difficulties hindering their volunteering efforts (no donations from the Koch brothers or George Soros as of yet). You can get up to $20 per month reimbursed for such costs as printing materials and purchasing a binder. Separately, you can get up to $20 for costs associated with participating in an event, such as gas, paying for parking, price of entry. You can also get up to $20 for event-themed costs, such as making a PTP sign for visibility at an event such as a march or political rally.
If you can get a table at a promising community or political event, we can reimburse up to $100 for the table if you can commit to arranging for yourself or someone else to be present for at least three-fourths of the event (we trust you to pick relevant events). We will also reimburse up to $15 off the costs of PTP-themed merchandise, to ensure your visibility at events. We will consider other reimbursement requests on a case-by-case basis.
To get reimbursements, or consideration of case-by-case requests for funding, first email finance [at] intentionalinsights [dot] org and describe your financial need: no need to provide documentation, just describe your situation in a paragraph, and get confirmation of approval. After that, just email finance [at] intentionalinsights [dot] org with the receipt for the purchase of the materials/binder, parking or travel by Lyft/Uber/Taxi/public transport or approximate gas money, or the approximate cost of paper and ink if you are printing at home, and any other expenses in similarity to these. Also explain what you used this money to pay for, so we can keep a clear track of reasons for expenditures, and a scan or clear photographs of all the signatures you gathered.
Finally, please provide a PayPal account to which we can transfer the money (this is currently our only means of reimbursement – for setting up a PayPal account, which you can do with any credit or debit card, see this link). Ideally, you would let us know ahead of time, but after an event or expense is also fine as long as it falls within the categories described above: we will not be able to reimburse case-by-case requests after you made the purchase if you did not get prior approval. We trust all PTP advocates to avoid abusing this system (after all, you signed the Pro-Truth Pledge yourself), and only use this as needed per your financial difficulties arranging for these needs otherwise.
Researching Signature-Gathering Venues
So you’ve got your binder, and your PTP merchandise is on the way. Now what?
Now, it’s research time! Find promising political or community events, or a spot with heavy foot traffic. Do your research in an organized manner. For best results, use your computer, not phone, to conduct research if possible. Create a spreadsheet with a section for event date, name, links (Facebook event link, website link, and any other relevant links, the more the better), reasons for why this might be a good event for PTP signature gathering, likely audience, registration info (if relevant/available), notes on event organizer interaction, and any other general notes about the event. Use the same spreadsheet for spots with heavy foot traffic, just put good times to go to the spot for “event time,” such as “10-5 on weekdays, 1-5 on weekends” to indicate library hours. While some people prefer to use pen and paper for such research, there’s a good reason to use spreadsheets. You might end up sharing the spreadsheet later with others to help them do signature-gathering, and you don’t want to type these things up after you already wrote them out. Another good reason is that we provided this template spreadsheet for you to use: just click on “File” and then “Make a Copy” and you have a perfect spreadsheet for yourself to use for doing research.
For heavy foot traffic locations, many places will do. If you’re near a university or college, or a high school, there’s usually a number of central spots where people congregate. Library entrances, for public or college libraries, are another good spot. These tend to be the best venues, since people are usually in a mental state oriented toward ideas and education there. Another good spot might be a square or park where people are hanging out, and any other area where people congregate in a relaxed mood. Watch where other people gather signatures, as those are likely to be good places.
The nice thing about such spots is that you can go on your own time. You can do a half-hour of signature-gathering before work, take an extended lunch break to get some signatures, or go after work to canvass the adult learners who go to college after finishing their day job. The challenge with such spots is that you can’t be confident about the extent of foot traffic on any given day. If you plan ahead and go to a political or community event, you will be more certain of finding a willing audience.
For either political or community events, Google is your friend. I live in Columbus, OH, so for the former, I would simply put into Google “political events Columbus Ohio” (without the quotation marks) and here are the results. As you can see, there is an extensive list of local political events from which I can choose. The same goes for a Google search for “community events Columbus Ohio,” which brings up a similarly extensive list. If you are in a less well-populated area, search for political or community events in your county or region. Another friend is Meetup.com: use it to look for meetups relevant to politics and social activism. The category “movement” meetups, as in this link, can prove useful.
The next step is filtering. Not all political events will be equally appropriate for signature-gathering. For example, a candlelight vigil is not a good place to gather signatures, while a rally is a great place. A March may be really good if it includes a rally, but not if it’s just a March without a rally. A town hall meeting would be a so-so place to gather signatures from private citizens, but would be great to put politicians on the spot and ask them to sign or publicly refuse to do so.
Caption: Chad Eckerd wearing a PTP shirt he got in preparation for doing canvassing (Courtesy of Chad Eckerd)
For the vast majority of rallies, conferences, and other large public events you don’t need to get permission to gather signatures. In some cases, rallies and conferences allow you to purchase a tabling spot or simply bring and set up a foldable table. You should take advantage of that opportunity, as it increases the perception of legitimacy among event attendees and also makes you more visible: gathering signatures in that situation is quite a bit more effective.
For smaller events that are semi-public in nature, you should email or call the organizers in advance, let them know that you want to come and gather signatures for the pledge, and ask them if that would be a concern for them. Smaller events include meetings of local Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Green, and other party clubs; meetings and trainings of supporters of various causes, such as environmentalism, tax reform, free speech, and so on; conferences devoted to specific politically-relevant topics. It is very rare that we heard any concerns. In fact, often the organizers would give you a few minutes to speak about the Pro-Truth Pledge and why the attendees of the event should take it. In that case, tailor your remarks to the specific audience with whom you are engaging.
What about community events? The larger ones that work best tend to be events that are not paid and have a theme beyond simple entertainment. For example, state fairs have not worked out well in terms of getting signatures. More successful were community events centered around the Pride March, Earth Day, Labor Day, July 4, and similar thematic events. That way, when you present the PTP binder, you can tie in the theme of the day to truth in public discourse, making people more likely and eager to sign.
Note that some large community events are large enough that they offer tables or booths to nonprofits. Since you represent a nonprofit – Intentional Insights is a 501(c)3 educational and nonpartisan nonprofit and the Pro-Truth Pledge is its civic engagement project – you can use that nonprofit status to secure a booth or table, often for free or at a reduced fee.
Caption: Ken Whitaker at the Hispanic Heritage Parade & Street Festival in Utah. A regular booth there costs $175, but a nonprofit one costs $100. The $100 was sponsored by PTP donors (Courtesy of Ken Whitaker)
There are also a host of smaller community events that can be great venues to gather signatures for communities in which you participate. If you are a member of a church, secular group, or other values-based community, bring the PTP binder to various social events in the community. For example, a coffee hour after worship service in a church or a presentation by a speaker in a secular group is a great time to gather signatures. Do the same if you are a member of a walking club, a choir group, a reading club, or a service club such as Rotary or Kiwanis. Depending on the norms within such communities, you might consider letting the organizers know about your plans and asking them to let you know if they might have concerns (which is quite unlikely). In fact, a well-organized and large community might have specific areas for signature-gathering and similar activities by members. A block party or neighborhood party can be a great chance to introduce the PTP to your friends and neighbors, and a work social event to your professional colleagues. If you play sports, or if your kids do, a social event for the team can be a nice opportunity to share about the PTP.
It’s very helpful to research a couple of months into the future, and put into your calendar a number of events where you plan to gather signatures or times you plan to go to spots with heavy foot traffic. Likewise, set yourself a set of personal goals for the signatures you plan to get. Making a plan like this and writing it down has been shown by research to be highly effective in helping you achieve your goals, and fighting lies and protecting truth needs every advantage it can get!
Besides these more planned activities, take opportunity of things you already do to gather signatures spontaneously. Everyone is different in their activities, so be creative! One of our signature-gatherers travels frequently, and carries the binder around with him whenever he travels. He goes to various local events of values-based groups when he travels, and carries the binder with him visibly. He also hangs out in hotel bars in the evenings when he travels with his binder right beside him. When people ask him about the binder, he tells them about the pledge, and offers them an opportunity to sign. Be equally creative in adapting spontaneous signature-gathering into your life!
Note that some state have laws around gathering signatures for petitions to put on the ballot. Fortunately, the PTP is not a petition, and does not fall under these kinds of laws. Likewise, the PTP is not a form of electioneering, and does not fall under these kinds of laws. Still, some people who do not know what the PTP is about might be confused about it, and you would need to educate them about the fact that the PTP does not fall under either either petition laws or electioneering laws, since it is not about about a ballot measure or support for a candidate.
If you are part of a group of people in your locale researching signature-gathering events, make a Google Form such as this one made by the Ohio PTP Advocates group (directions on Google Forms here). Such Google Forms help coordinate the research of multiple people together, and because they can see what has already been found, they won’t research the same thing. Very handy! Then, you can have a point person in charge of communicating about events to people who engage in signature-gathering. That way, you can divide the research and signature-gathering activities into separate roles. Such division allows people who are more introverted and research-oriented to do research, and people who are more extroverted to do signature-gathering.
Now, let me be clear: this is in no way an absolute divide. Most people who are part of the Pro-Truth movement tend to be more introverted than extroverted. Despite being quite introverted myself, I do a lot of social activities. It’s just about what is easier to do for people. For example, while I can do signature-gathering, it’s easier for me to do writing: that’s the biggest impact I can personally make. For other people, writing is not their strength. So if you are in an organizing role and can make things easier for people by playing to their strengths, do so. Still, I know that there are people who specifically want to stretch themselves and expand their comfort zone: for example, I remember a PTP Advocate telling me he came out of his shell through PTP activism that included signature-gathering. So if people want to expand their comfort zone, support them in doing so!
Pro tip for organizers: set up reminder systems for people who are doing research and also those doing signature gathering. There are a number of people who commit to doing research or gathering signatures, and then life gets in the way. It’s not that they don’t want to do research or gather signatures, it’s simply that when their attention is not on this topic, they forget to do it. People have different personalities, and those who are in organizer positions generally are well organized themselves. Help others be their best selves by sending them reminders to conduct the research or signature-gathering they said they want to do! You can use organizing systems such as Trello to help organize your own activities, and scheduling reminders such as Gmelius to send recurring emails to others, or FollowUpThen, which offers a reminder service for yourself and others. Remember, you ARE NOT imposing on their time by reminding them to do these tasks, you are simply supporting them in achieving goals they said they want to achieve.
The Main Event: Gathering Signatures
Now, to the main event: actually getting signatures.
The binder provides you with the basics you will need to gather signatures when either canvassing or tabling. When canvassing, you’ll just walk around or stand in place and ask them to sign the pledge. When tabling, you will take out the flyers, the PTP text, the FAQs, the sign-up sheets, and if you have them business cards, and spread them out on a table.
Remember that your goal is to get as many signatures as possible, so everything you do should be oriented to doing so. There are many tips and tricks to the skill of gathering signatures: here is a videotaped training on gathering signatures provided by a professional sales trainer that outlines these tips and tricks.
Here are some guidelines in text form:
- Once people come close enough (5 yards) meet people’s eyes and smile
- When tabling, it’s best to avoid sitting behind a table and having it between you and people: stand to the side or in front of the table instead
- While in most cases, PTP merchandise is optimal, in some thematic events, you can also make a good impact with wearing an event-themed t-shirt, such as Carl Baker wearing a pro-science shirt at a March for Science event
- For those who smile back and do not look away or seem busy and intent on ignoring you, give a “stopper” line (one that would get people to stop) because they agree about the problems that the Pro-Truth Pledge is meant to address
- A good stopper line is “Hey, do you think there’s too much lying in politics?”
- If you are at an event devoted to a specific political topic, consider tying that into your stopper line: for example, if you’re at an environment-themed event, say that “Don’t you hate it when politicians spread falsehoods about the environment?”
- You can also casually start a conversation about something to break the ice, and then turn to signature-gathering
- If they answer positively to the stopper line, or once you break the ice, give a brief pitch:
- “I think so too, and I’m working to do something about it! I’m part of a non-partisan movement to bring truth back into politics. Join me to push politicians to stop lying and hold them accountable by signing the Pro-Truth Pledge.”
- Immediately after the pitch, hand the person a flyer
- Then, hold out the binder or clipboard and pen for them to sign
- Do not give them the binder before giving them a flyer
- Some people will want to read the test thoroughly and consider the pledge, which is fair
- You want to be able to pitch to other people while someone is reading the text and considering whether to sign
- So do not give away the binder unless the person is also taking a pen to sign
- Once they take the pen, say something positive, such as “great” or “thanks”
- While they are signing, explain to them that by signing the pledge, they are at the same time asking their elected representatives to sign the pledge
- This is why we need their addresses and phone numbers
- When the person is done signing, they’ll typically want to give you the binder and pen and be on their way
- Take only the binder, and leave them with the pen for the moment
- Then check to make sure they signed correctly: you’ll be quite surprised to see how many people made a mistake or forgot to fill something out
- For example, they forget to put their address, or forget to print their name, or forget to put their phone or email
- When this happens, explain why it is important to provide all of these, and ask “What is your address/phone/email, please?” and write it in for them if they agree to tell you
- Thank them politely after they sign
- Suggest they pass along the flyer and words about the pledge to their friends and neighbors
- If you have Pro-Truth Pledge business cards:
- Hand them several, suggest they keep one in their wallet as a reminder of the pledge and pass out the rest
- Do not ask them if they would like them, simply hand them to the person as a default part of getting them signed up
- Then, if they want to hand them back to you instead of taking them, tell them to simply leave it at a coffee shop, library, or other venue
- Only take them back if they are strongly reluctant to keep them
- If you meet pushback such as “it will never work” or some other version of that, respond by saying “Well, doing something is better than nothing. What do you have to lose by signing and showing politicians what they should do?”
- You can also give a response that comes from your personal experience and commitment, explaining why you signed
- Other responses to clarifying questions can be given based on the FAQs
- Do not spend more than a couple of minutes talking to people, especially those who want to argue
- Remember, you are missing out a lot of potential people who will sign the pledge if you do
- If they are insistent, you can tell them to take out their smartphone and look up the FAQs on the website, which have links to a number of articles about the pledge
- You can also tell them that they can contact the PTP organizers through the website, who can answer their questions in more depth
- For enthusiastic people, ask them if they’d like to help gather signatures or make a donation.
- If so, take their contact information, and give it to the local area organizer, or to someone from the PTP Central Coordination Committee
- If they want to donate cash on the spot, you should write them a receipt
At political events especially, you will have a substantial chance of running into public figures, such as politicians or reporters. When presenting the pledge to them, explain that each public figure will get a positive reputation boost from both signing the pledge and having their information sent around to all pledge signees. They will also get external validation from being evaluated by others for the accuracy of what they say. Further wording on convincing public figures is available here.
For elected officials or candidates in particular, they get a bonus from being able to attack their opponents in races when their opponents have not signed the pledge – what do these opponents have to hide if they refuse to take the pledge? Further wording is here for convincing politicians. Ask them to sign the binder and also provide you with a business card for the PTP central organizers to input their public information into the website. We will also follow up with them about a pledge statement they may want sent around to pledge-takers and hosted on the PTP Public Figures and Organizations page.
The binder also provides you with an additional tool to pitch elected officials or candidates, as it demonstrates the physical reality of many people signing the PTP. What you would want to do is combine the physical evidence of the binder along with the total number of all the people who have signed the Pro-Truth Pledge in that politician’s region if it’s a regional politician, or country if it’s a national-level politician, since part of signing the pledge involves calling on one’s elected representatives to sign the pledge. We make that information available only for people who are area organizers or members of the PTP Targeting Committee, for the sake of data security, so if you are one of these people, get in touch with one of your contacts from the PTP Central Coordination Committee for that information.
Note that politicians – or their staff, who you will likely be talking to if it’s a high-level political figure – will likely want you to leave them with some physical presence of the number of people who signed the PTP. What you can do is print out a photograph of one page of a sign-up sheet, as physical proof of signature-gathering, along with printing out the spreadsheet with all the names of the people who signed the PTP in that region or country. You can then leave it with the politician or their staff, along with a flyer with the text of the PTP.
Now Bring It Home
So you come home after the excitement of signature gathering. What next?
You might be thrilled to input the signatures you gathered into the PTP website. If so, great: here are the directions on doing so.
However, your skills and interests might be less in data entry than in other PTP areas. Worry not! We have volunteers who are excited about inputting people into the website. Just scan or take nice-quality photos of the signatures, and email them to info [at] intentionalinsights [dot] org.
After you send out the signatures, refill the supply of flyers and sign-up sheets in your binder. Then, check your calendar for the next signature-gathering opportunity and prepare everything you might need for that.
Let us know your experience and any questions you might have!
Below are some thoughts from some of our more prolific signature-gatherers.
Here is how Carl Baker described his tabling experience at the March for Science in Washington State:
- Lots of people seemed to be drawn in by the charts that are printed and taped onto the board on the front of the table. I think that it helped a lot that I was in a community where I’m already known. I wasn’t an outsider and this was an event I would have been at even without the PTP. My experience was that this is easier than it seems. Just nerve yourself up to talk to people (that’s the hard part). I didn’t encounter anyone who was hostile.
Here is how Ken Whitaker described his experience gathering signatures in Utah:
- I agree with Carl Baker that getting up the nerve to do it is the hard part, once you’ve done that it’s easy sailing.
- So far I’ve only done some canvassing at local rallies, but they’ve been pretty successful. I do, hopefully, have a tabling event coming up this weekend if I can come up with required fee. I’m excited to see how that goes, I’ll be there with my t-shirt on and for the first time a new 4′ banner I’ve purchased.
- Getting online and checking upcoming events has been an incredible help, also I’m involved with a couple of local activist groups that I’ve gotten the leadership to sign as well as one of the organization’s themselves. I’ll be giving a presentation to the other organization at their next monthly meeting and will hopefully get the rest of the members as well as the organization to sign as well.
Here are thoughts from Duff Dyer, who is a professional salesperson
- I find a direct approach most productive, in this and other sales (this is a sales situation). I start by asking, “Have you heard about the Pro-Truth Pledge yet?”
- I’m assuming the answer will be, “No,” but if the answer is, “Yes,” I say, “Fantastic! Did you take The Pledge, or do you have questions?” The point of that is to uncover someone who didn’t sign, but can still be talked into it (especially if I’m at an event where there are others collecting signatures).
- I think the best approach for exposition is to define the goals and my personal reasons for involvement. “The Pro-Truth Pledge in short, is a movement to be truthful. If you take The Pledge like I did, you essentially promise to be honest and truthful, in what you say, post, and expect from those around you. (Hand the potential signer The Pledge sheet). The bigger picture goal is to achieve honesty and truthfulness in our media and politicians. When we get a critical mass of signers in, for instance, (local politician’s) district, The Pledge includes that goal that we want our media and politicians to be honest and truthful too. So we go to a sitting politician, or media personality, or candidate, and say, we have 5000 people in your constituency that have signed the Pro-Truth Pledge and they want you to take The Pledge as well.
- “I don’t know if this will work, but I can’t see how being honest and truthful, which I’m already doing, and trying encourage politicians and media to be honest and truthful as well can hurt.
- “What do you think? You can take the Pro-Truth Pledge by signing right here.”