Successful campaigns can take many forms, but we’ve found that many follow a similar path. Here’s a basic divestment campaign roadmap, whether you’re targeting your university, your pension fund, or your faith community. Check out our resources page for more detailed campaigner handbooks, document templates, key reports, and more.
Got questions? We’ve got answers to some of the most commonly asked questions here. For a basic, downloadable fact sheet on fossil fuel divestment, click here.
Step 1: Launching a Petition and Building a Team
A great way to get going with your campaign is to launch a petition — it plants the divestment flag in your community, starts to build buzz, and helps recruit like-minded allies to the cause. (Use the “Start a Campaign” menu above to start a petition now.)
As you build support, you’ll be able to bring a team together to help drive your campaign forward. Talk with your friends, classmates, neighbors, or coworkers about your local campaign. Share your petition on social media (and then share it some more). Host a meeting for folks who want to get involved (more info about hosting a meet-up here). Remember to think outside the box about who to invite: a diversity of experiences and opinions often makes a campaign stronger.
Step 2: Planning your Campaign
Think about who your campaign is targeting and what you’re asking them to do. If you’re on a college or university campus, this will either be your school President or the Board of Trustees. If you’re running another type of campaign, find out who runs the show. Do you think he/she will get on board with the effort? Are there any sympathetic voices or influencers who could support you? Who in town or in your congregation could could help out? Who’s going to stand in the way?
Don’t spend too much time worrying about exactly how much money your target institution has invested in fossil fuels — institutions will often refuse to share this information, and this can be an easy way to derail a campaign early on. Unless a given institution has specifically chosen to not invest in fossil fuels, then you can pretty safely assume that they are invested in fossil fuels. (Since fossil fuel companies make up about 12% of the overall stock market, it’d be hard for a balanced portfolio to avoid them without specifically screening them out.)
Step 3: Building Support
You don’t need 51% of your campus or town on board to win a divestment campaign, but public support counts.
Run a petition to show that there is support for divestment (it’s also a great way to build up your group). Host events, debates, and film nights to educate your peers about the issue. Plan some creative actions that make divestment the cool thing happening on your campus or in your community. Meet with as many groups as you can to get them to sign on to your campaign.
Need some tips on how to talk about fossil fuel divestment? Click here for our communications guide for community campaigners.
Step 4: Turning up the Heat
Once you’ve built up some support, it’s time to turn up the heat. Deliver your petition to your institution’s decision-makers, host a creative demonstration outside the building, and publish an oped in the campus or local newspaper pushing for divestment.
Now is a great time to bring in all the people who signed your petition to help out: ask them to write letters to the board, publish op-eds or ads in local magazines and newsletters, and share your petition and materials with their friends.
Step 5: Pressuring the Decision-makers
Request a meeting with the investment committee, money manager, or administrator in charge of the pension fund to ask them to commit to our demand: a freeze on new fossil fuel investments and a drawdown over current holdings over the next five years.
As the meeting approaches, keep up the pressure with creative actions and other tactics. Host a big demonstrations outside of the meeting if you think the decision-makers need the extra nudge (the most likely scenario).
Step 6: Escalation
If the board or administrators turn you down, it’s time to escalate the campaign. Escalation can take a number of different forms: maybe you want to get congregants or employees to withhold more contributions to the fund until the manager commits to divestment, or maybe it’s time to occupy their office building.
Escalating your campaign can be a serious decision, as well as very exciting. Remember, you’ll have the support of a movement across the country as you take action: no one will be fighting this fight alone.