Plan Your Campaign Strategy

Here are some resources to help craft a winning campaign strategy.

Intro How to use this guide Phase 1 Build a Team Phase 2 Plan Your Campaign Strategy Phase 3 Tell Your Story Phase 4 Recruit
Phase 5 Train Your Base Phase 6 Take Action Phase 7 Win! anti-racist organizing Tips, tools, and links Financial Resources

Elements of a campaign

Campaigns are sustained efforts toward a specific outcome, like getting a university, church, or pension fund to divest from fossil fuels. 

Often, groups spend a lot of time and energy on an endless series of events or actions that don’t result in any outcome. However, groups with clear goals and a strong strategy to achieve those goals are not only able to win, but build a movement!

Imagine your strategy is like a bridge that gets you from where you are to where you want to go, or your end goal. Your vision is the sun that guides you, or how you want the world or community to look. Along the bridge are steps, or your tactics, the actions you take to build your power and bring you closer to victory. It’s also helpful to have goals along the way, to show you how far you’ve come and how far you need to go.

Getting started

When you start planning, don’t spend too much time worrying about exactly how much money your institution has invested in fossil fuels. Having a basic understanding of the financial argument is a good way to get a foot in the door with administrators, but it takes more than presenting the right argument to win. You must demonstrate that your team represents a power too great to ignore, and convince the institution that it’s in their interest to divest.

Institutions will often refuse to share specific information about the endowment as a way to derail campaigns early on. But unless an institution has explicitly chosen to not invest in fossil fuels, then it’s pretty safe to assume they do hold fossil fuel investments.

Goals give you a direction, so start by setting some! They are the benchmarks by which you gauge progress. What will your campaign accomplish in 3 months? 6 months? When can you win full divestment? Set a realistic timeline and work backwards in planning what it will take to win. To dive deeper into goal-setting, click here.

Next, think about who your target is and what you’re asking them to do. Your target is the person who has the power to make the final decision to divest. If you’re on a college or university campus, this is usually someone on the Board of Trustees Investment Committee, the President, or the Chief Investment Officer.

Could that person get on board with divestment? Are there any sympathetic voices or influencers that could support you? Who in town or in your congregation could help? Who will stand in the way? Mapping out where you have support and where you meet opposition will give you a better picture of how best to build power to influence your target.

For more on setting targets, click here.

Once you’ve chosen your target, you need to build enough power to make it more difficult for your target to choose NOT to divest than to give you what you want. That’s where the Act-Recruit-Train cycle comes in, a helpful tool to think about in sequencing in your campaign. How much capacity will you need to kick-off? What would it take to do a big recruitment drive? What skills will you need to train new members on?

As you take actions within your campaign, you are constantly recruiting new members, training them and growing your organizational capacity. With each action, you escalate either with growing risk, frequency, or number of people participating in your actions.

For a deeper dive into the Act-Recruit-Train cycle, click here.


Launching a petition is a great way to plant the divestment flag and get things moving.

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 3.28.27 PM

Petitions are a useful way to demonstrate that there’s wide support for your campaign. The Fossil Free petition tool lets you set up your own petition, which will be added to the divestment campaign map for others to discover and add their support.

Crucially, the tool also lets you email and keep in touch with the people on the list to update them on campaign events, progress, and actions.


This is also a great time to do some research on other divestment campaigns and their strategy. Check out their websites, social channels, and look at newspaper articles. Fossil fuel divestment campaigns have been running for 3+ years with some amazing victories, so lean on each other! Join and the Facebook group to ask questions and communicate with campus divestment campaigners across the country.

For more, check out these awesome resources from Beautiful Trouble:

on to Phase 3 →