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Change.org Lets You Put Your Money Where Your Signature Is

With a new feature called Promoted Petitions, users can pay to advertise causes to each other. It’s the first step the platform has taken toward expanding the actions its users can take to champion causes.

Since Change.org began focusing on its petition tool in 2011, it has offered just two actions for supporting a cause: Create a petition; sign a petition. Now the company is expanding that list.

Today, it will release a feature called “Promoted Petitions” with which users can pay to advertise petitions they care about to other users on the site. The option to promote a petition will be offered to users after they sign it. In one example, paying $3 promoted the petition to 10 people on the site, but costs will vary to reflect what is reasonable for an average individual to contribute in each country.

Promoted Petitions is a version of the company’s primary revenue source, “Sponsored Petitions,” which allow organizations to pay for promotion of their petitions to targeted Change.org users, as well as ask those users for their email addresses.

“It may not have a huge net impact on the revenue,” Change.org CEO Ben Rattray says of the update. “It may marginally increase it, but really what it will do is it will expand the base of people who end up funding part of the organization…. Instead of a small number of large organizations, you have a large number of small petitions.”

The company also plans to launch what it is internally referring to as “Victory Funds,” which would allow campaign creators to crowdfund money to, for instance, buy advertising for their causes elsewhere. Because the tool hasn’t been developed yet, Rattray said he couldn’t say whether or not Change.org would take a cut of funds raised.

Rattray describes the long-term goal of Change.org is to provide people with the same type of advocacy tools traditional institutions have. The site started, ironically, as something similar to this description. Before pivoting to become first a blog network and later a petition platform, it offered cause champions tools for doing everything from organizing events to organizing call campaigns.

But the petition tool, Rattray argues, helped establish an “atomic unit” on which to build. About 35 million people have signed up for the site, which is required in order to sign a petition.

“It’s actually quite similar to what eBay did,” he says. “Where you have these Internet properties that were simple, just an auction … and then for the creator you end up building this tool set that lets you manage an entire business on the eBay platform. [On Change.org] you start with something really simple, a petition, then give creators an ability to actually build a movement on the platform and have access to all the tools that are needed to do so.”

[Paperclip & Money Image: Dani Simmonds via Shutterstock]

About the author

Sarah Kessler is a senior writer at Fast Company, where she writes about the on-demand/gig/sharing "economies" and the future of work.

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