Action Network Help & FAQs

Step-by-step guide to uploading shapefiles for letter campaigns

In traditional custom targets for letter campaigns, your activists are matched to targets by zip code. With custom shapefiles for targets, you can match your activists to targets based on their full address (not just zip code). Shapefiles are a type of file that store descriptions of various shapes on a map that the computers can read. These shapes could represent school districts, city wards, districts for members of parliament, regions -- nearly anything you can think of. There’s a few steps to getting this set up:

Step 1: Email us at support@actionnetwork.org. Send us two things:

  • The link to your group (for example, actionnetwork.org/groups/my-group-name)
  • What shapefiles you plan to use (for example, UK parliament districts, Texas counties, EPA regions, New York City school district).

We may already have the shapefiles you want in our system. If we do, we will share them with you and you’ll save some time looking for the files (though they may be out of date, so please double check)! If we have the shapefiles in our system already, please skip to step 5.

Step 2: Find your shapefiles.

We promise, it’s not as scary as it sounds. Google “{geographic zone} shapefiles” Typically, you can find the shapefiles on the website for that government or institution.

I googled “US school district shapefiles” and get the data from Census.gov. I googled “UK parliamentary shapefiles” and got the data from statistics.gov.uk. I even found shapefiles for penguin habitats in Antarctica by searching “Antarctica penguin shape file.” 🐧

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You can even use multiple shapefiles if you want! Let’s say you want your activists to write to their governor and state representative. Find the shapefiles for both your state and the state representative districts.

Step 3: Put your files in the right format

Download the shapefiles in GeoJSON format. The end of the file name might be .geojson

If you aren’t able to download the files in that format, it’s ok! Use this free tool to convert the files to GeoJSON format. There’s a lot of different file types for shapefiles, but we need the GeoJSON.

Step 4: Send us your files.

Great, you get to talk to us again! Please send us a nice email (support@actionnetwork.org) and attach your GeoJSON files. You’re welcome to send pictures of your dog or cat as well, we won’t complain.

While you’re off changing the world, we will create a unique ID for each shape. Give us a few business days to work on this. We’ll let you know if we need additional information.

Step 5: Get a head start! Find your targets’ email addresses.

While you wait for us to get you the Unique IDs, you can start finding the email addresses for your targets. This might be the most difficult part. 

Reminder: 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 regulations.gov) If you want to set that up, please contact us and we'll help you do that!

Step 6: Create your custom target CSV.

After a few days, we will send you a unique ID for each shape you sent us. Now you’re ready to create your custom target.

  • Go to the Start Organizing menu, and click “Custom Targets”
  • Select your group from the drop down menu. Click to add a new custom target.
  • Download our custom target sample file here, and start putting the information for your targets in the file. Values for first_name, last_name, email and geoid are required. Columns for first name, last name, title, first_name, last_name, zip_code, country, gender, email, phone and geoid are required.
  • Match the unique IDs we sent you to each target, and put the unique ID in the geoid column.Screen_Shot_2018-12-13_at_3.52.22_PM.png
  • Now save your file as a CSV and upload it.Screen_Shot_2018-12-13_at_3.45.02_PM.png 

Step 7: Create your letter campaign

This now works like any other custom target. When you create a letter campaign, make sure it’s sponsored by your group. Then, select this custom target list from the drop down menu, and do the action fields like you normally would. For more on creating letter campaigns, click here

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Save and go to the next step, and select your targets by clicking the big red button.Animated_GIF-source__1_.gif

 

You’re all set! Make sure to test your letter campaign before sending it out to your activists.

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