Online petitions platform Change.org reached a huge milestone today, when its 50 millionth user registered on the site.
The San Francisco-based organization is fast becoming a household name around the world. It offers a means for ordinary people to start petitions against corporations, politicians, and other decision makers — and win.
In the past few years, petition-starters have convinced Bank of America to drop its unpopular new monthly debit card fee, put pressure on British department store Harrods to stop selling unethically sourced coffee, and secured CNN’s Cindy Crowley as the first female presidential debate moderator in two decades.
Check out a cool set of visualizations on the impact of these petitions and thousands more here.
In the wake of these high-profile victories, Change.org doubled its user base in 2013 alone. To celebrate a year of breakneck growth, Change.org’s data science and design teams partnered up to search the data for any underlying trends. Their research revealed that an impressive 30 percent of registered users have been part of a successful campaign. In most cases, that involves taking a few seconds to sign a petition.
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The team was surprised to discover that most petitions garner fewer than 50 signatures. The data also revealed that more women sign petitions than men, but women are more reluctant to start them.
I asked Jennifer Dulski, the company’s president and chief operating officer, how Change.org plans to leverage these insights and sustain its momentum in the coming year.
Related: We profiled Dulski, the first women to sell a company to Google, in our series highlighting Silicon Valley’s wonder women.
“We are devoting more of our resources to exploring the data,” said Dulski. “We are seeing growth in places we never expected as we scale globally.”
Dulski is particularly optimistic about the sheer number of petitions that are started in small towns and receive just a few dozen signatures. For instance, just 50 parents and students signed a petition to help a school teacher keep her job. Change.org plans to invest more time and resources into supporting these grassroots petitions — not just the ones that catch the media’s attention.
To ensure that these smaller petitions have a shot at winning, Dulski also plans to reach out to local politicians. If this strategy works, politicians will be more accountable to their constituents. Already, the team has had some success; in Califonia, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, and Congressman Mike Honda (D.) reportedly keep a close eye on the site.
Dulski is also planning to hire mobile developers and designers in the coming year, as Change.org does not yet have a mobile app. This might inspire a younger demographic to sign up, as well as people in the developing world. She will also initiate campaigns that inspire women to start petitions — not just sign them.
Marketing dollars will also need to be spent on responding to criticism. Change.org certainly has its naysayers and skeptics, despite its popularity. Some activists believe Change.org will encourage “slacktivism,” meaning that people will merely sign a petition, rather than get involved in a cause. Dulski believes that due to the advent of social media and the Internet, it’s easier than ever before to fight for what you believe in.
Considering launching a campaign on Change.org? For inspiration, check out Dulski’s list of the five most clever ways people have started petitions: