Change.org, the popular online petition site with over 157 million users, is laying off its entire business development team, Yahoo Finance has learned.
The move affects nearly 17% of the organization: 58 employees, according to two former employees, out of nearly 325 employees in all, with 24 employees immediately laid off this summer and the remaining 34 employees expected to leave the company by 2017. Additionally, Yahoo Finance has learned several members of Change.org’s recruiting team have also been let go, although the number remains unclear at this time.
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 organization. Now, it’s moving to a crowdfunding model where petition signers can donate cash. (The company takes a 5% fee on all donations.)
Change.org has raised over $42 million from investors to date, including Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, Bill Gates and actor-turned-angel investor Ashton Kutcher.
Four former Change.org employees confirmed the changes to Yahoo Finance and describe the pivot in business model as “unsurprising.”
“I think they realized sponsored petitions weren’t going to be the revenue model that can scale the company, and they felt they needed to take action,” one former Change.org employee told Yahoo Finance.
Change.org did not respond for comment before publication.
Change.org was founded in 2007 by CEO Ben Rattray, a Stanford graduate who came up with the idea to develop Change.org after realizing social networking could be a powerful tool for enabling people to rally together online to address social issues. For example, Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian woman, was arrested in June 2014 simply for attending a men’s volleyball match in Tehran; Ghavami was freed after 775,000 people signed a Change.org petition.
Still, while Change.org has proven successful in enabling the kinds of social change Rattray initially set out to achieve, it’s clear the organization has work to do on the revenues side. Rattray initially alluded to layoffs in a company blog post published June 30.
“As part of the process of phasing out Sponsored Petitions, over the coming months we will be parting ways with many of the loved and respected teammates who helped sell and support this product,” Rattray wrote. “This is the most difficult part of our decision to heavily invest in these new fundraising tools.”
The former Change.org employee we spoke to said it’s been a tough transition. “But I know it was the right thing for the company,” the former employee added.
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