How Change.org works

Brian Coyle
3 min readOct 9, 2022

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I placed a petition on change.org. Over four months, 516 people signed it. Change.org’s business model was revealed as well.

Over that time I paid $252 to change.org to promote (show) the petition page to change.org visitors. Mostly these were $25 payments for 1,000 views, totaling 10,056 views.

On average, each 1,000 views produced around 38 signatures. Each signature cost about 72 cents. Around 3.5% of those who saw the petition’s headline due to a promotion signed the page

Besides promotions, another 4,012 visitors to change.org saw the petition’s headline, probably due to a search result, 29% of all views. They had a 3.7% conversion rate.

Although conversion rates fluctuated over time, there wasn’t much of a trend. The 3.5% rate seems robust.

Now to change.org’s business model. During the on-boarding process, marketing material said that if a petition achieved 500 signatures, it would be promoted for free on the site. Small print noted this was at change.org’s discretion.

But when the petition reached 500 signatures, no free promotions occured. I stopped paying for promotions, and the petition is no longer included in search results, either.

I queried change.org about the marketing bait and switch. They responded with boilerplate that did not answer questions. It appears that change.org makes money the same way as companies that run real-world petitions (on the street, in front of stores, in airports, etc.) One pays for their services up front, they show the petition and collect signatures.

Change.org is owned by a nonprofit foundation of the same name. Companies that hire people to ask for your signature in front of Whole Foods are for-profit and pay taxes.

As a nonprofit, change.org is free to select its beneficiaries. Perhaps my petition did not fall into one of these groups. But they do not state such a thing, which means any discrimination for or against petition subjects is not warranted.

But my biggest problem with change.org is that I cannot compare the metrics of my petition with other petitions. Is a 3.5% conversion rate typical, low, or high? I want to know how interested the public is, and this is a top-level number that could help.

If 72 cent cost per signature is typical for a petition, and 2/3 of signatures are due to promotions, and change.org gets 3 million signatures annually … then change.org earns $1.44 million from this a year. Not a lot, but tax free, and their primary expense is server time.

Your usage may vary. Perhaps change.org users should have a site where they contribute statistics.

It’s very tricky to “try to do good” and make a profit at the same time. Especially if you are a non-profit. Change.org might do better if it committed to something. It could be a set of topics, or it could concern quality of petitions. Perhaps there could be an initial trial period when results are normalized, and a threshold needs to be met.

The petition I posted is change.org/realwildwest. It’s directed at movie, streaming, and video game studios. The headline is: MILLIONS of BISON, ELK, BIRDS should FILL WESTERNS. SHOW ‘EM! Studios, show the real wild west, with wild animals, birds, fish, that were really there.

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