Action Network Help & FAQs

Uploading custom targets

You can upload a list of custom targets to use in addition to our built in target lists. This is useful for directing messages at, say, corporate targets, or other elected officials we don't have built in to our database.

You can watch the custom targets video tutorial here

To view, delete, or upload targets, click the "Custom Targets" link in the "Start Organizing" menu. From there, choose the list you'd like to upload targets for, either your personal email list or any groups you are an administrator of. The targets you upload will be available as a choice on step 1 of your letter campaign creation page to only that list or group. (Groups within a network can also share target lists with their child groups.)

After you've chosen your list you will see a list of all targets uploaded to that list. You can see the target list's title, delete it, download the original spreadsheet, see the date is was uploaded, and see the number of targets processed or any processing errors that occurred.

To add a new list, click the "Add New Targets" button. Choose a file to upload and give your list a title. You can download our sample file as well to see our format.

To you upload your list of targets, we require you create a CSV (Comma Separated Value) file, a common text format. You can save spreadsheets as CSV files from Microsoft Excel or other common spreadsheet programs. You can download a sample CSV for custom targets here.

For your CSV file, keep in mind these items:

  • Columns for title, first_name, last_name, zip_code, country, gender, email, and phone are required.
  • Each target must have values for title, first_name, last_name, and email.
  • Activists match the single target (or group of targets, if they share the same ZIP/postal code) with a ZIP/postal code closest to their location.
  • A target with a blank ZIP/postal code (or targets, if you leave more than one blank) will match to any activist, regardless of location.
  • An optional gender value (M or F) can be added. If blank, "them" will be used instead of "he/she" in clips in emails.
  • An optional two-digit country value can be added. Default if blank is US.
  • An optional phone value can be added, to allow the use of the phone clips in emails.

We require at least title, first_name, last_name, email, zip_code, country, gender, and phone columns in your spreadsheet. For each target, values for title, first_name, last_name, and email are required. A gender value is optional -- any targets without a gender of "M" for male or "F" for female will be assigned the neutral plural when using gendered clips, so instead of "he/she" you'll get "they." A country value is also optional -- we will assume your target's zip_code is a U.S. ZIP code unless you enter a different two-digit country code, in which case we'll use the zip_code value as a postal code for that country. And a phone value is optional, which will allow you to output that custom target's phone number using letter campaign personalization clips in email.

Activists are matched with custom targets based on where they live. If you upload more than one custom target in your custom target list, activists will match the single target (or group of targets, if they share the same ZIP/postal code) with a ZIP/postal code closest to their location. A target with a blank ZIP/postal code (or targets, if you leave more than one target's ZIP code blank) will match to all activists, regardless of location.

In this way, you can have activists write to multiple targets at once. Putting up more than one target without a ZIP code will result in all of them matching all activists. Putting up more than one target in the same ZIP code will result in both matching when an activist lives nearby. Putting up two targets with different ZIP codes and a target without will mean an activist nearby will match the target with a ZIP code nearest them and the target without (kind of as a CC across ZIP codes). 

Custom targets are deduplicated by name, so uploading the same target more than once, with different ZIP codes, will not be successful.

When your activists contact these targets, they will see the target's title and name when they write their letters. In addition, we'll append a salutation with the target's first and last name only (no title) to the beginning of all letters.

Note: You can also upload one custom target row and use comma separated emails in the email column to email more than one target all at once, if you don't want to have a separate row for each target. (ex: a target's title, first name, and last name could be "NYC City Council" with all the emails for all the targets comma separated in the email column, giving you one target that sends email to all email addresses instead of one target per city councilor.)

Click "Save & Upload" to start the upload process. Uploads may take a few minutes, depending on the size of your target list. Reload the page to see your progress or any errors that occurred. Once your upload is finished it will be available for choosing on step 1 of the letter campaign creation process.

You can delete a target list by clicking the "x" icon next to that target list. Deleting a target list will remove it from all letter campaigns, including ones already in progress, and this process cannot be undone. Be careful when deleting target lists!

If your group is part of a network, you will also see a button to share your target list with your child groups. If your list is shared, child groups will be able to choose your target list as an option on step 1 when making their letter campaigns. Click the "Send To Children" button to share the list with your children groups. To un-share, click the button again to toggle it off. Un-sharing target lists is similar to deleting them -- all letter campaigns set up by your child groups using this list will have their targets cleared. Be careful when un-sharing target lists!

Note: You can also use letter campaigns to fill out contact forms on websites instead of sending emails to custom targets . For example, filling out regulatory comment forms. We can do this for any form on the Federal Register or anywhere else. (though not If you want to set that up, please contact us and we'll help you do that! Note that this is a partner feature.

Have more questions? Submit a request