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Change.org lays off 30% of its staff

Change.org CEO Ben Rattray
Change.org CEO Ben Rattray Source: Flickr/Shane Adams

Change.org, the popular online petition site with over 159 million users, laid off 30% of its staff on Thursday, Yahoo Finance has learned from two current employees. The layoffs affect roughly 100 employees across all departments.

The move follows news reported by Yahoo Finance earlier this month that Change.org was in the midst of laying off 58 employees largely focused in business development and recruiting. At least 124 employees in total have been laid off this summer.

The layoffs come as the result of changes in the revenue model of Change.org — a B Corporation, which is a for-profit business focused on social or environmental issues.

Until now, Change.org has been relying on a financially unsuccessful revenue model around sponsored petitions paid for by nonprofits such as Doctors Without Borders Italy and Oxfam, an international confederation of charitable organizations. Change.org announced in late June it was moving to a crowdfunding model where petition signers can donate cash. (The company takes a 5% fee on all donations.)

Change.org is also banking on an expanded promoted petitions product that lets people who sign petitions contribute funds and promote campaigns to a wider audience, as well as a new monthly subscription product that lets users contribute financially.

In a blog post published on Change.org’s site on Thursday, CEO Ben Rattray acknowledged layoffs were coming in light of the restructuring.

“In doing this, we have made the very difficult decision to part ways with a group of remarkable teammates we are lucky to have had drive our mission, and who have helped impact the lives of millions of our users,” Rattray said in the post. “These colleagues helped build Change.org into the platform we have today, and all that we achieve going forward will only be possible because of their work.”

Rattray added that the laid off employees were not at fault for the “transition” in business model.

Rattray, a Stanford graduate, founded Change.org in 2007 after realizing social networking could be a powerful tool for enabling people to rally together online to address social issues. The organization has raised $42 million-plus from investors to date, including Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, Bill Gates and actor-turned-angel investor Ashton Kutcher.

Since then, Change.org has undeniably effected the very kind of social change Rattray envisioned. For example, Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian woman, was arrested in June 2014 simply for attending a men’s volleyball match in Tehran but was freed after 775,000 people signed a Change.org petition.

Regardless, Change.org is obviously struggling to monetize and will continue to experiment with new revenue streams.

“I don’t think this kind of thing is ever easy,” a former Change.org employee told Yahoo Finance recently. “I know the management team gave it a ton of thought and made the right decision for the future of the company. It was clear that they invested a lot of time and effort into making this shift as easy as possible for everyone.”

Change.org did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Change.org was laying off 30 employees rather than 30%. The error has been corrected.

JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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