When Change.org first launched, we were guided by one goal: to empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see.
This month we hit a huge milestone in our march toward that vision -- surpassing 150 million users worldwide. We’re now growing by more than 1 million new users a week, driven by more than 25,000 new petitions each month -- more than double the number we saw last year.
Increasingly people are coming to Change.org to spark and accelerate the largest social movements of our time, tied to the world’s biggest news stories.
More than 1 million people have taken action to protest the recent Stanford sexual assault case, fueling the movement to stop sexual assault on college campuses. After the UK’s Brexit referendum last week, more than 400 petitions were started, reflecting the pulse of a nation. In Brazil, more than 2 million people used Change.org to call for a new government amidst a major political crisis. The list goes on, and we’re seeing this emerge in each of the 17 countries in which we have staff.
And yet even with 150 million people taking action on Change.org on every imaginable issue, we’re just at the beginning of unleashing the true potential of people united around a common cause.
Today, we announce a major expansion to our platform to further amplify this emerging citizen power: a new suite of fundraising tools. In addition to empowering people to raise their voices to create campaigns for change, people will now be able to use Change.org to raise money to drive those campaigns to victory.
Over the past few months we have been beta testing one of these fundraising tools in the U.S. -- crowdfunding - and it’s clear there is immense potential power in combining citizen-driven crowdfunding efforts with citizen-driven advocacy campaigns.
Take Amanda Nguyen, a survivor of sexual assault who launched a Change.org petition calling on Congress to approve legislation for improved rights for survivors. Amanda not only mobilized more than 100,000 people to sign her petition, but by using our crowdfunding tool she was able to raise the money necessary to bring sexual assault survivors to the halls of Congress to deliver the petition and tell their stories. The result was a bill supporting the rights of sexual assault survivors that passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate and was just introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Crowdfunding can be used in wide-ranging ways to fuel campaigns, and we’re already starting to see many possibilities emerge -- from raising money to fund a billboard making a campaign impossible to ignore, to screen a documentary on child marriage in rural communities in Ethiopia, to fly to deliver petition signatures to ask major grocery retailers to end food waste, and to rebuild the life of a woman whose daughter’s petition on Change.org helped get her clemency after being jailed for a first-time non-violent drug offense for 17 years.
Because of the success we’ve seen with these early crowdfunding campaigns, we are now making our crowdfunding tools available to petition starters in the United States, with plans to roll this out globally in the months ahead.
We believe there is huge potential in enabling people to pool money to create change, and crowdfunding for campaigns is just one way we can unlock it. A few years ago we launched Promoted Petitions, a tool that enables anyone to contribute money to promote the campaigns they care about to other Change.org users. Nearly 500,000 people have used this product even though it's only been available to a small segment of our users. Alongside the expansion of our crowdfunding tool we will be enhancing the power of our Promoted Petitions product and extending it globally. We are also developing a monthly subscription product to support movements, and we will continue to add to the depth and flexibility of our fundraising tools in the months and years ahead.
To enable us to focus on building these fundraising tools, we will be phasing out our Sponsored Petitions advertising product over the next 6 months. We’ve been fortunate to help more than 1,000 remarkable organizations grow their membership through Sponsored Petitions, and look forward to working with many of them through the new fundraising and advocacy tools we will be rolling out. Nonprofits will still be able to connect with passionate Change.org users to advance their campaigns, and an illustration of the potential we see, the first organization to start a pilot crowdfunding campaign just raised $125,000 in less than a month. We look forward to deepening our work with organizations around the world, providing them more ways to give voice to the millions of Change.org users and communities who want to join their movements.
As part of the process of phasing out Sponsored Petitions, over the coming months we will be parting ways with many of the loved and respected teammates who helped sell and support this product. This is the most difficult part of our decision to heavily invest in these new fundraising tools. The Change.org staff who will be departing helped build the foundations of this organization and we are immensely grateful for their work. We will do all we can to support them in their transition and as they continue to be part of the extended Change.org family.
We live at a time of great challenges, but also one of new possibilities. Starting a movement for change that has the potential for significant impact used to take many years and the support of major donors. Now it can take days by pooling the voices and money of thousands of people who have never met, but who share a common vision for changing the world. We are proud to serve as a platform dedicated to empowering these new movements, and look forward to providing ever-better tools, training and support to increase their impact in the years to come.
Ben Rattray is the CEO and founder of Change.org.