Change.org and Racial Justice
Black lives matter.
George Floyd’s murder has triggered a moment of reckoning in the US and around the world. Part of that has been tens of millions of people using Change.org to express their fury, anguish and hope about the reality of entrenched racism and systemic inequality.
We share this fury and anguish. And we believe that what ultimately transforms these feelings into hope, is doing the work of real action: showing up to protests, civil disobedience, voting, online action and improving the organizations we’re part of.
In the last two weeks our team has been working around the clock to support this movement, including:
- 30+ expert campaigners working to support the thousands of petition starters and tens of millions of people signing racial justice petitions like these.
- Amplifying these petitions to be as loud and large as possible, with our largest and most expensive advertising campaign, including 100+ billboards across Minneapolis & NYC, newspaper takeovers, taxi-top ads, and more to reach more than 240 million people.
- Regularly sharing ways to support the movement – organizations to donate to, rallies to attend, resources to read – to 20 million Change.org users (example).
- Rapidly rebuilding core parts of our website as it struggled to stay live as almost 100 million people a week came to Change.org.
Some context: Change.org is a social good company dedicated to empowering people to create the change they want to see. We do that through free technology and expert support across 20 countries. This year, we’ll spend $20.8 million hosting and building free, easy to use, powerful campaigning tools for 100 million people every month, and $7.8 million providing expert campaign support to thousands of petition starters each month.
The main way we pay for this is from people who promote petitions. After signing a petition, people can pay to promote that petition to Change.org’s audience of 100 million people each month. These crowdfunded ads help petitions grow larger and therefore build more power to win – and if anyone who promotes a petition is ever unsatisfied they can contact our helpdesk within 3 months, and we’ll happily refund them.
Change.org has historically invested every single penny it generates from this into better tools or more campaign support. But for the first time ever on Change.org, we had a petition (two in fact) where more than 100,000 people chipped in to help them grow – both Justice for George Floyd (600k+) and Justice for Breonna Taylor (200k+).
In total, supporters spent $9.9 million to promote these petitions. We have been and will continue to fully deliver on those promotions by advertising the petitions far and wide both on and off change.org, to help the petitions be as visible and large as possible.
This is orders of magnitude larger than anything we’ve seen before. So we stepped back to ask what else we could do. We are part of a system that entrenches discrimination and disadvantage. And in this moment we can use our resources to do much more.
We took some time to think about how we can be best of service to both our mission and this moment – in a process that brought together staff from the Change.Noire ERG, our Diversity & Inclusion Council and other key leaders. And, as announced to the staff team on Thursday, we’re proud to commit every single cent that has been earned into racial justice work.
- We’re putting $6 million into a fund dedicated to fighting for and supporting broader racial justice campaigning efforts and the movement beyond these individual campaigns and Change.org.
- $2.5 million will be reinvested directly into helping these specific petitions themselves be as large, visible and successful as possible in their calls for justice.
- We’re committing at least $1.5m to establishing a new team focused entirely on supporting racial justice organizing and action; with 30 million people taking action on racial justice on Change.org, we’re committed to helping them make the deep and ongoing change they want to see.
The $6 million fund will go towards:
- Black-led organizations on the front lines of critical racial justice work.
- Financial support for grassroots racial justice organizers to drive change in their communities.
We take the responsibility to ensure this money is as impactful as possible very seriously. We’ll consult with racial justice and movement experts on the best organizations to partner with in order to maximize for impact. We’ll also involve the petition starters in deciding on the final options in the fund, and allow everyone who contributed to promote these petitions to vote and inform how the money is divided across those options. We’ll report back on this in a follow up post, and we intend to take a similar approach with any petition that receives more than 100k promotions in the future.
In addition to the work we can do supporting the broader movement, we have to look inward at the work we can do on ourselves as well. And when I look inward at Change.org, there’s so much more we can and must do.
Our staff, and particularly our leadership, do not represent the diversity of our users or the countries we serve. As a result neither our product nor the support we provide is the best it can be for those communities. And it creates real challenges for the people of color who contribute their talent, energy and time to our work.
Today we’re committing to redouble our efforts to address systemic racism within our organization. That starts with:
- Representation: a C-team and board with 25% people of color (including Black executives and board members) within 6 months.
- Structure: A rethink of the mandate and composition of our executive team, and a commitment to structurally incorporate our Staff Board and/or D&I council into executive strategy and decision making.
- Growth: An ambitious and well-funded leadership and sponsorship program, starting with a focus on growing staff of color into future executive positions.
- Policy: A company wide review of all policies which might negatively impact, or fail to protect, people of color.
- Audit: A thorough, independent investigation into how systemic racism impacts our culture and decision making (including reviews of past decisions like growth paths for Black staff)
- Training: A compulsory anti-racism / anti-oppression training program for all staff and board members, with more extensive training for all executives.
- And more to come as we investigate further and discuss with our team. Disrupting systemic racism requires systemic solutions some of which will take time to discover.
I’m proud of all our staff who pushed me and our organization’s leadership to pause, think deeply together as a team, identify where we are failing, and commit to taking action to do better. I particularly appreciate the work from colleagues in Change.Noire, an affinity and employee resource group inclusive of Black staff.
This will be a continuing and long journey as we work to become an anti-racist organization. The steps outlined above are a start – an important start, but only that. This is a journey we will always be on and we know it includes work on our product, our structure and systems, and within our own leadership.
Nick Allardice, Acting CEO