Via Erik Marcus I came to an excellent blog post by Mark Hawthorne, who takes on a question I’ve often wondered about: Is One-Click Activism Effective?

You’ve almost certainly seen one-click activism: you get an email, click on a link, and send a pre-written message to a pre-selected legislator or other politician. It’s activism made easy, but if it is so easy to do, can it possible be effective? Don’t the folks receiving those verbatim form letters treat them with a respect proportional to the effort it takes to send them?

He called Dianne Feinstein’s office to ask:

I spoke with David Hantman, an aide in Senator Feinstein’s office. “I would say those emails are very effective,” he says. Hantman explains that when such emails come into their office, they are forwarded to the person in charge of the issue, who then discusses it with the senator. “They will then work on a response with the senator.” If it’s an individual sending the email, the senator will know that one person wrote about an issue. “But if it’s a campaign of 10,000 emails, she won’t go through them all; she’ll see that 10,000 people emailed her on one issue.” Does it make any difference if she receives thousands of emails on a single issue versus, say, five? “Definitely,” says Hantman. “She knows that that many people care about that issue. If she were to receive five emails on any given issue, she may say, ‘This may not be as important to my constituents — only five people have written me — compared to 10,000 people on this other issue.’”

While both PETA and Farm Sanctuary insisted these kinds of outreach efforts were definitely effective, others were a bit more cautious in their endorsement:

“These emails do work, but as part of a larger campaign,” says Grace Markarian, HSUS’ manager of online communications. HSUS combines these alerts with information on its Web site and on social-networking sites or even direct mail.


Kim Sturla of Animal Place agrees one-click activism can be effective, but she warns that you can’t generalize. “Some aides don’t tally, for example.” Kim says her organization has struggled with the e-alert issue as technology and communication methods have evolved, but the results are still positive.

I guess in the end it all boils down to the simple notion that getting people to act, even if it is just virtually raising their hand in support or opposition to something – is better than not getting people to act. But if you really want to broaden your personal impact, hopefully you can treat one-click activism as just the beginning and not the end of your activity.