We’re In It For The Money
Here’s the situation. There’s a niche group of companies that use online petitions to generate acquisition leads for nonprofits. The email addresses of the petition signers are then sold to the nonprofit that sponsors the petition and are used to convert signers to donors or members. Care2 with 20 million members who’ve signed up to receive petitions is the grand daddy of the lead generators, with Change.org and Moveon.org and Greatergood.com having entered the market in competition with Care2.
For several years Care2 and Change.org have duked it out for first place, each relying heavily on their claimed pedigree of commitment to progressive causes and values.
But earlier this week Ryan Grim reported in the Huffington Post that Change.org “founded on progressive values, has decided to change its advertising policy to allow for corporate advertising, Republican Party solicitations, astroturf campaigns, anti-abortion or anti-union ads and other controversial sponsorships…”
Parts of the progressive community are outraged and up in arms — feeling betrayed by Change.org’s switch to a company willing to now represent all points of view on the ideological spectrum. As Jeff Bryant of the liberal Campaign for America’s Future put it, “Change.org built its reputation on arming Davids to take on the Goliaths of the world. Now it seems that the company thinks David and Goliath should be on the same team.”
Change.org itself acknowledges the new policy of ideological agnosticism and says, “If Google will allow it, we would allow it.”
Of course the fact that Change.org apparently had no plans to tell current clients of its change in direction and its current customers learned about it only through leaked internal documents hasn’t help dampen the drama. Nor have headlines like Huff Post’s helped either — Change.org Changing: Site to Allow Corporate, Anti-Abortion, GOP Campaigns, Say Internal Documents.
And so, like jilted lovers, some Change.org “clients” (the company now calls them “advertisers”) are outraged that this for-profit firm is now expanding its market to include ideological opponents “using profits made from progressives”…”using skills developed in progressive campaigns” …and “increasing their revenues by removing the limitation of “progressive” clients only.
All of which brings me to the ever-present and larger questions this situation presents for our sector, and for which I suspect Agitator readers have a diverse range of answers:
- Should platforms/services like these be exclusive only to one ideology or point of view, or should they be universally available to all ideologies?
- Should a mailing list broker limit itself to just ‘conservative’, ‘progressive’, or ‘extreme middle’ clients? What about printers and CRMs?
- The same for agencies and consultants?
- Do companies that provide services to nonprofits have a duty to inform customers and clients of their other clients?
- Does the ideological value system of a company or consultant providing fundraising services even matter?
Whadda you think?
P.S. In my view, Goethe answered these questions best: “He who has a task to perform must know how to take sides, or he is quite unworthy of it.”