The Real Reason you Shouldn’t “Chip-In” on Change.Org
With the Black Lives Matter protests still taking place across the country — though, the news would like to convince you that they aren’t — petitions for law changes, arrests, and criminal cases re-opened have likely shown up on your feed for you to sign. I know for myself, I’ve signed more petitions in the last few months than I have in my entire life, a majority of them on Change.org. If you’ve signed a petition on Change.org you have likely assumed, like the majority of us, that change.org is a non-profit organization actively working to make a change around the world. And they have made changes, in 2011 they got Bank of America to get rid of their $5 debit card charges, and just this year they helped get the police officers responsible for George Floyd’s murder arrested.
Change.org has worked to make positive impacts across America, however not all their business practices are ethical.
Change.org is a multimillion-dollar private for-profit organization, despite the misleading use of their .org instead of .com. It is not nor has it ever been a non-profit. In fact, every year Change.org brings in millions of dollars in revenue from a variety of clients for a total estimate of $72 million dollars, with one of its biggest backers being LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman. If you click on the link I added for the amount they made, the website specifically shows their industry as being under “Non-Profit” but the Company Type is “For Profit”.
Earlier this year Business Insider published an article outing Change.org for using “Chip-Ins” from petitions towards the company instead of actually using them to further the progress the petition(s) are trying to make. The most recent and best example of this is the George Floyd petition on Change.org, which is the biggest petition ever on their website with over 14 million signatures so far.
Every time someone signs a petition on Change.org they are asked to “chip-in” x amount of money to “get this petition on the agenda”. This basically means Change.org takes your money to show a petition from its own website across their email, social media, and website. As you look at that screen asking you to chip in, you will see a list of other people who have seemed to have already done so, trying to subconsciously urge you that since others are doing it you should “chip in” as well. According to Business Insider:
This is part of the site’s fundraising model: Change.org does not pass along donated funds to petition organizers or to affected parties like Floyd’s family, but rather keeps the money and uses it to “circulate” petitions more widely on its own site.
If you do decide to click on “Yes, I’ll chip in $x or more” you are quickly taken to a new page calling you are a hero and asking you to “chip in what you can”. As though it is a struggling organization that doesn’t have the means to provide for itself. They even say “every $20 will advertise the petition 250 extra times on Change.org” though they don’t specify how the money is actually spent. In contrast, Google Display Networks for the first quarter of 2019 said that advertisers spent on average,
“$2.80 per thousand impressions (CPM), and $0.75 per click (CPC). The average click-through rate (CTR) on the GDN was 0.35%.”
This all per 1,000 impressions; meaning Google spent a lot less on ads, compared to what it supposedly costs for Change.org to do the same on their own website.
This means that millions of people who genuinely want to help the causes they care about are being led astray by a company supposedly there to help regular people trying to make a difference.
Your Personal Data
“Change.org does not sell the personal information of any of our users and we have not sold data in the last 12 months.”
This is important to note, instead of stating they’ve never sold your data they state they don’t currently and haven’t recently. This means if you gave your name and email to sign a Change.org petition prior to 12 months ago, there is the possibility that your personal information was sold. In a Forbes article from 2012, they wrote about this exact issue:
“Change.org charges groups for the privilege of sponsoring petitions that are matched to users who have similar interests. For example, when a person signs a petition about education and clicks “submit,” a box pops up and shows five sponsored petitions on education to also sign. If a user leaves a box checked that says “Keep me updated on this campaign and others,” the sponsor can then send e-mails directly to that person. It’s not clear from the check box that your e-mail address is being sold to a not-for-profit.”
If you were signing petitions in the early to late 2010s it is very likely that your personal information was sold. Change.org was founded in 2007, meaning from the initial start they haven’t upheld any of the supposed non-profit morals they would like you to believe they have.
All this said, I still believe good can be done by creating and signing petitions on Change.org. They have done good work, though their methods may be questionable. However, in the future instead of donating to Change.org after signing a petition and giving money to an already multi-million dollar organization. I recommend looking for an actual non-profit organization to donate to.
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