A $30-million infusion led by LinkedIn.com co-founder Reid Hoffman will help Change.org grow its online petition platform and scale fledgling efforts to generate revenue through crowdfunding and membership. Also participating in the latest round of funding are Microsoft founder Bill Gates and venture capitalist Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator.
Hoffman pledged to donate any of the increase in the equity value of his investment to charity, including the Change.org Foundation. More than 200 million people in almost 200 countries have used the online petition platform since it was founded a decade ago by Ben Rattray.
Change.org’s board will be chaired by Nancy Lublin, founder of Crisis Text Line and former CEO of DoSomething. It will also now include LinkedIn co-founder and vice president of product of management Allen Blue, InnerSpace and Flixster founder Joe Greenstein, and Sarah Imbach, an angel investor and entrepreneur who was chief operating officer at 23andme.
The for-profit fundraising and petition platform also is completing the process of transitioning from a certified B-corporation to a public benefit corporation (PBC), enabling it to put mission at the core of business operations, “as our commitment to empowering people everywhere will become legally part of the company’s corporate charter.”
“Over time we’ll be building tools to enable people to more effectively develop their campaigns into immersive movements — to win not just single legislative battles, but to build a network of campaigns that create systemic change, through a set of tools that enables users to take additional action such as organizing events, raising money, calling their legislators, and crowdsourcing ideas for further mobilization,” Hoffman wrote in a blog post last week.
“The process of developing this movement-building toolset is not a project for one quarter or even one year. It’s something we’ll be dedicated to for years to come, and we look forward to working with our users to identify the most powerful ways to increase their engagement and impact,” he said.
Revenue primarily had been derived from an ad product that helped nonprofits grow their base of supporters, generating more than $20 million per year in revenue. It wasn’t growing quickly enough to scale operations and faced increasing competition, according to Hoffman, who made his first investment in 2014. Last summer, Change.org launched a new monthly membership program and expanded a crowdfunding product.
“To achieve impact over time, you need financial sustainability – whether you’re a public benefit corporation like Change.org, a nonprofit like Kiva or Endeavor, or a foundation like Mozilla that owns a revenue-generating for-profit subsidiary,” Hoffman said.
The membership program enables users to subscribe for a monthly fee and receive benefits, such as exclusive content, invitations to events, and merchandise, Hoffman said. The subscriptions will fund development of free tools and providing petition starters expert campaign advice and coaching to help increase the impact of their petitions.
“Over the past year, 50 million new users have joined Change.org, and we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of civic action across the U.S. and around the world. Our aim in the years ahead will be to design the type of scalable, sustainable technology that will channel this energy into ever-more effective, constructive action,” Hoffman said.