Former staff of Change.org in the UK have accused the petitions website of misleading donors into thinking their money will go to charities rather than the platform itself.
Change.org has promised that it is looking at how funds raised can be used to support the Black Lives Matter movement, after criticism in the United States centred on a petition demanding police are held accountable for George Floyd’s death last month.
Concerns were raised that donors using the “chip in” function on this petition, which asks supporters to add a donation alongside their signature, may assume that this money goes to grassroots charities working on behalf of the BAME community.
“Chip in” donations actually help to fund Change.org. The option is included on all petitions, although it has now been disabled on the petition in question.
17.5 million signatures
By this morning, the George Floyd petition had 17.5 million signatures. Civil Society News has seen screenshots of additional information originally published alongside the petition, now removed by Change.org, which indicated that around three million people may have chosen to donate money using the “chip in” option.
Some former staff estimate that donors may have given as much as £6m.
In response to the criticism, Change.org told Civil Society News that it will be sharing more information in the future on how money raised from this petition “can be of most service to this historic movement”.
The Change.org site has been used by hundreds of UK charities and campaigners to attract support for their causes, including a petition signed by more than a million people this year to get NHS fundraiser Captain Tom Moore knighted.
Demand for transparency
In an open letter published in the US this week, more than 130 former staff members argued that Change.org is “siphoning away resources” from small BAME groups and “profiting from the death of black people”.
They demand transparency about the amount of money raised, and have asked the organisation to make an equivalent donation to Floyd’s family and organisers working in the United States to end violence against black people.
Meanwhile, a former UK Change.org employee, who wished to remain anonymous, told Civil Society News: “It’s astonishing that a week on, the leadership at Change.org still hasn’t made public how much they’ve made from this, what they’re planning to do with the money and how they’ll learn from this mess of their own making.
“They’re doing significant, lasting damage to a platform that has done and could still do so much good.”
Katherine Sladden, formerly the campaigns director at Change.org in the UK, tweeted yesterday: “I worked on amazing campaigns w amazing ppl @UKChange. It's a site that can do lots of good.
“But ex staff including me are calling on them to be honest abt profits made on the back of #BlackLivesMatter petitions & give those funds to grassroots #BLM orgs”.
She added: “Having seen so many black-led grassroots orgs crowdfunding these past weeks for urgent work they are doing in their communities, I cannot say nothing while a company absorbs millions donated in good faith for the movement. I hope good ppl at @change fix this”.
Johnny Chatterton, who previously worked for Change.org in the UK as the director of campaign innovation, tweeted this morning: “The more I think about this, the more angry I get.”
He added: “What the company is doing today is just awful”.
A Change.org spokesperson said: "In a process led by black staff, we’re actively working on how the record-breaking signatures on [this] petition, and the money contributed to promote the campaign, can be of most service to this historic movement.
“We’ll publicly share more as details are finalised."