Email to Target: create an email to target action

Email to target actions allow your supporters to contact decision makers and ask them to take action in support of your campaign.

Just as with simpler petition actions, you create a new email to target action by going to your toolbar at the top, clicking "New" and choosing "Email to target" in the left column.

As with petitions, flexible forms and other content types, you can see your progress through the various steps at the top of the page - completed steps appear in blue, incomplete steps in grey. Click "Next" to save your changes on the current step and to reach the next step.


Quick links to each action building step


The content step works in the same way as on a petition action - take a look at the article on setting up a petition action for details.

Click Next to move to the Target step


In this step, you’ll select the targets you want your supporters to contact.

In Impact Stack, you can create actions to target three kinds of dataset:

1/ Ready to use geographically mapped datasets such as UK MPs or local councillors, where the end user will enter their postcode to be connected with the right target.

2/ Custom datasets where you load your own target or target dataset into your Impact Stack installation. 

3/ Bespoke datasets, offered to the supporter via a postcode mapping or a drop-down interface, which more onion can implement for you as a project - contact support if this is something you’d like to discuss.

Selecting your target dataset

You can select which dataset you want to use, or add your own custom targets, by clicking ‘Edit your target dataset’. You can find out how to load your own custom dataset here.


You can also control whether supporters can edit the message (set to ‘on’ by default). 

If your dataset connects the supporter with multiple targets (eg Members of the Scottish Parliament or London Assembly, or a custom dataset), you have some options about how to display these.

If you want users to be able to email one or more of the possible targets, they’ll see them displayed like this, with the facility to deselect any they choose, and to individually edit the messages.


If you’d like the user to select just one of the possible targets, they’ll see it as a dropdown, like this, with the facility to edit the message to the selected target on the next form step.


Or if you choose random, the supporter will be offered just one target, selected from the targets matched to them.

If you have a very large custom dataset we can set up an autocomplete list for you. Instead of displaying a dropdown list of all targets, the user can start typing and see matched targets (like the example below). Please contact support if you'd like to set up an autocomplete list.


With datasets that allow the supporter to contact more than one target, such as Members of the Scottish Parliament, Senedd Members, Ward Councillors or custom datasets


Once you have defined your targets click 'Next' to save your choices, and to define the message you want to send them.


Your actions will have much more impact if the messages are tailored to match the recipient. An MP will appreciate it if the message they receive acknowledges their party’s position on a topic, or, better still, references that individual's previous actions, or special responsibilities.

There’s more on this in relation to MPs in our report MP actions that get noticed, but the same principles apply to any targets, whether a custom dataset, or one of the pre-defined datasets provided. If your organisation campaigns in the UK on an issue such as education or health, which are devolved, we have some guidance for you here.

Impact Stack makes it straightforward to set up complex exclusions and message tailoring.

Set up a default message

Start with a default message, which will go to all targets for whom there is no specific message. You can include some tokens for information that the supporter will enter into the form. (See video below for more detail on using tokens in a message to target.)

  • Subject - This will display at the default email subject for the message the target receives. Make it clear, relevant and concise.
  • Header - The content in this field is not editable by the supporter. The default here is a token for the salutation as defined in the dataset, but you can edit it to whatever you want, eg if you want to include some text that supporters cannot delete or change.
  • Body - This is the main part of the message that will be sent to the target. If you have chosen to make the message editable by your supporters, they will be able to edit this part of the message.
  • Closing - Use this field to add the supporter’s name and details, as well as maybe some farewell lines. Like the header, this is not editable by the supporter.
    The message text can only contain plain text, not html, though if you include a web address, some email clients will display this as hyperlinked text.


Adding supporter answers to emails using tokens

Tokens are placeholders which allow you to insert relevant data to personalise the message, for example adding the supporter's details, or information about the target. The pre-filled default messages will already include useful tokens such as [email-to-target:salutation] to drop data from the dataset into your message. There’s a full list of available tokens linked underneath the closing section of the message. Find out more about tokens.

You can also include any data that the user has entered in the form on the previous step - you just need to include the token in the format [submission:values:form_key] - where form_key is the form key of the relevant form field. Eg In the example above, the actual message will display the user’s comment in place of the [submission:values:comment] key.

See our glossary for an explanation of what a form key is, and where to find it.

Set up specific messages

Once you have a default message, you can set up a specific message for an individual, or group.

For example, to set up a tailored message for one political party, click ‘Add specific message’. (You can click ‘prefill from default’ to speed things up.) In the example below, the message acknowledges the public position of Plaid Cymru for Welsh Assembly Members from that party.

You can also set up tailored messages to target an individual. (You can filter based on any of the data in the dataset - constituency, name etc, but the ‘salutation’ field allows you to be sure you’ve got the right person).

Impact Stack will apply the rules from the top and send the first match, so make sure to put the filter rules in the right order, eg in the example below, the ‘Plaid leader’ filter needs to appear above the ‘Plaid’ filter, otherwise the leader of Plaid Cymru would receive the party message, instead of the individually tailored message.


You can set up a filter to apply to multiple individuals by adding them one by one. If you have a big list it may be quicker to ask support to do this for you. Just drop the support team a line.

If you are using a custom dataset, you can set up a filter based on information that you’ve entered in the ‘groups’ field. For example, if you had a dataset of companies, you could have one group for companies which support your campaign, and one for companies which are opposing it, and offer different tailored messages accordingly. See the video above for an example of how this could work.

Exclude targets

If there are individuals, groups or parties you would like to exclude from receiving this action, you can set this up as a filter in the same way.

If the supporter has other targets available, the ones you’ve excluded simply won’t appear in the list of targets that they see. If excluding those targets means a supporter has no target available, then you can enter a message which will be displayed to them.


Alternatively, you can set your filter up to redirect people who match the targets caught by that filter to a different action or web page altogether.

For example, if your primary action asks people to email their MP, but you'd like people in Wales to email their Welsh Assembly member instead, you can set a filter to redirect them to a different action.


>Remember that Impact Stack applies the rules from the top, so make sure to drag exclusions to the top of the list of filters.

Add a ‘no target’ message

Don’t forget to include a message for those for whom there is no target. No matter how targeted your marketing, you can’t control who comes to your page, so make sure there is a friendly and informative message for people who aren’t who you expected. Eg in the example below, the action is for Welsh Assembly members, so you should include a message for people who have entered a postcode which is not in Wales.

Depending on your dataset, sometimes the coverage isn't complete - you can reassure supporters that you still value their support by asking them to let you know if they encounter a problem.



The Form step works in the same way as for a Petition action, so you can review it here or read this article which goes through the different fields you can use in your forms.

The key difference is that an email to target action will require fields which match the supporter to the target (either postcode, or whatever has been set up for your bespoke dataset) or which allow the supporter to to select the target. These fields need to appear on a first form step, with a page break before the message step, so an email to target action will always need more than one step. 

Similarly, any fields you want to use as tokens in a message will need to be on an earlier form step - otherwise Impact Stack won’t have access to them. Your action templates should be set up to make this straightforward.


Again, these work essentially the same way as for a Petition action.

If you want the supporter to receive a copy of the message or messages that they sent to the target, you can do this by including the relevant token ([submission:email-to-target-messages]) in the thank you email.


More on tokens here.


Remember, Impact Stack actions send emails even when the action is still in draft!

It’s really important to fully test your action, especially if you have complex exclusions and tailored messages set up. Here’s how you can fully test your email to target action using test mode.


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