Until now, if you whipped up an online petition on Change.org, you had two ways to make your cause relevant to a national (or international) audience. The first way was to hope somebody in the mainstream press would toss a few hundred words in your direction. With any luck, the media attention would get you some signatures.
The second way was a little more promising, but not by much. You could attract the attention of a major organization, one that was willing to start a new petition on your behalf and pay Change.org to put it in front of as many eyeballs as it could afford. Your old petition would wither and die, but your cause would live on, carried forward by your big benefactor.
It’s ironic that a site whose entire purpose is to empower average citizens requires said citizens to lean on elite institutions to get their message across. But all of that’s changing. Starting today, users of Change.org can now pay with their own money to promote petitions to other users.
For $10, you can have your (or another’s) petition shown as a “related” item to 50 people who’ve signed similar petitions. For $25, you get 125 impressions. For $50, you get 250. And for $100, you can promote a petition to as many as 500 new people. Users will also be able to edit the size of their contributions, said Change.org spokesperson Brianna Cayo-Cotter -- meaning the petition will be shown “to the exact number of people you want to see it.” None of this guarantees that those people will end up signing. But it boosts your chances.
The folks at Change.org call these “crowd-promoted petitions,” and the service has seen trials in Australia, Great Britain and Spain. Beta testers have promoted some 5,000 petitions this way since the experiment began. And some pretty interesting data has come out of it. For instance, the average donation is about $18, and 98 percent of all donations weigh in at under $100 each.
But to those of you eager to throw your Benjamins around -- not so fast. It seems you won’t be able to spam-promote the same petition over and over.
“You only have one opportunity to promote a petition, which is right after you sign that petition,” said Cayo-Cotter. “Given that you can only sign a petition once, you only have the one opportunity to promote it, for up to $1,000, no more.”