According to Ben Rattray, the founder of Change.org, over 200 nonprofits and NGOs like CARE, Oxfam America, Ashoka, Amnesty International, Grameen Foundation, Greenpeace, Nature Conservancy, USA for UNHCR, World Wildlife Fund, and Natural Resources Defense Council have signed up for accounts on Change.org.
When I asked Ben to share a story about how Change.org has helped a nonprofit he said:
"I think the coolest success story thus far comes from a small, grassroots organization in Washington DC working to combat human trafficking and sex slavery called Polaris Project They invited a few of their activists to join their community on Change.org about a week ago and now have a network of over 100 supporters across the US discussing their issues on the site, and thousands of people checking out their work every day-– some of whom have emailed them saying that they never knew of how prevalent human trafficking is in the United States.
As much as I think larger organizations such as Amnesty International, The Nature Conservancy and The Humane Society have the potential to develop large and active communities on the site, I think it's these smaller organizations that don't have large marketing budgets or prominent brands, but who do great grassroots work that have the most to gain by using our platform to raise awareness and build their base of supporters."
With the creation of so many new social networks and networking tools, it will be interesting to see which ones will rise to the top and which will fall away. I feel like right now people are "dating" all of the new tools, but at some point they are going to want to commit to just a few.
Shortly after Change.org's launch, Ben received an email from a user in Missouri who said:
"I just wanted to send you a note to say: thank you. In a world where all people seem to care about is themselves and where I sometimes feel like there is nothing one person can do to make a difference, your site gives me hope. You have done a beautiful thing, and I wanted to thank you for that."
How many tech tools do you know of that give you hope? Pretty cool.
If you are in the Bay Area, you can hear Ben talk more about Change.org at San Francisco's Net Tuesday on April 10th.
Cross-posted from the NetSquared blog.
Screenshot of sample Change.org widget from Change.org site.
Hey Britt- don't you think this Ben guy reeks of sanctimony, considering that he's tricking people into thinking he runs a non-profit? Why doesn't Change.org (.org, yeah right) admit that they are a FOR PROFIT organization that takes 1 percent of its money from charities? I think it's disgusting that they steal money from people showing goodwill. They should become a nonprofit and take the one percent, or get out. This guy is a liar...that woman from Missouri put her hope in an opportunist.ReplyDelete
Whoa. This is Ben from Change.org. I’m not sure if this oddly personal attack is worthy of a reply, but I will take the time to clarify a few things.ReplyDelete
Change.org is a company, and we’ve never pretended otherwise. The reason we have a “.org” domain is the same simple reason that many social entrepreneurship ventures and other companies have started adopting this domain extension: there is a scarcity of .com names. (See for example “upcoming.org”, a company that NetSquared is using to advertise our presentation at Net Tuesday next month.) If “change.com” were available we would have taken that domain instead, but unfortunately (and unsurprisingly) it was not.
Our decision about whether to incorporate as a nonprofit or for-profit was admittedly a very difficult one, and one that social entrepreneurial ventures like Kiva.org increasingly face (Kiva.org ended up deciding to incorporate as a nonprofit after going back and forth on the issue – see the following blog from their CEO Matthew Flannery on the topic, in which he says: “For anyone deciding between the two, my main thought is to be fiercely practical -- not religious -- about the org type you choose. These are tax-structures, not religions, you are choosing between. Each can be maximized in it's own way if you just focus on getting work done.” http://kivachronicles.blogspot.com/2007/01/tax-status-revisited.html.)
I think Matthew hits the nail on the head. Like Kiva we were torn on the issue, and we ultimately decided to incorporate as a for-profit primarily because the flexibility this gives us in political advocacy and electoral politics, which is an area we expect to move into in the future (the legal constraints on both 501c3s and 501c4s wouldn’t allow us to do the sort of things we plan). As with Matthew, I saw this as less of an ethical decision as a legal one that would impact our ability to pursue our mission: to empower people to advance the social issues they care about. Ironically, this mission is easier for us to pursue as a company given the legal constraints that nonprofits face in the advocacy arena.
(As a point of comparison, you might note that others in online donation space such as GlobalGiving.org and ChangingthePresent.org have dealt with this issue by having a for-profit company providing the technology and a nonprofit accepting donations, which is not too dissimilar to what we’re doing with our partnership with the nonprofit JustGive.org, which processes all donations through our site.)
Finally, about the 1% fee that we take for donations made through our site – this is ironically something we have been commended for because of how comparatively low it is. Almost every major nonprofit currently uses software provided by for-profit companies to process donations made through their website (such as Convio, GetActive, Kintera, and Blackbaud), and some of these take upwards of 8% of each donation. Even the nonprofit Network for Good charges 4.75% for donations through its site, which is slightly more than we charge when credit card fees are included.
I don’t begrudge the organizations that charge more than us at all; like us, they save nonprofits a tremendous amount of money, since the traditional way nonprofits raise small donations is through direct mail, which costs nonprofits at least 30 – 40% of all the money they raise. Ultimately any time an organization charges nonprofits for a service the money must come in part from donations, directly or indirectly. In our case we could have decided to charge organizations a yearly fee for our service instead, but we thought that this would serve as a deterrent to small organizations, and we wanted to make it freely available to everyone. So we thought (and still think) the quite modest 1% fee would be the best way to make our service available to all.
I hope that clarifies things, and hope that we can avoid anonymous, misleading personal attacks in the future. I think everyone in this sector is working toward the same goals, and there are too many problems in the world that require immediate attention for us to spend time and energy fighting with each other.