Celebrating the Art of Empowerment
The decade-old social-networking site Care2, which has empowered millions of people to lead healthy, sustainable lifestyles and support important causes, announced recently that its PetitionSite has surpassed 100 million petition signatures to support human rights, the environment, animals and other causes.
"When we started the PetitionSite over 12 years ago, it was a grand experiment to empower individuals to start online petitions and make a difference," Care2 Founder and President Randy Paynter said in a press release. "Critics laughed and said it wouldn't work.
"Today, nearly 20 million Care2 members have demonstrated the incredible collective power each one of us has to change the world," he added.
Care2's PetitionSite has helped individuals and its more than 1,000 nonprofit partners win countless victories for vital causes, including:
- Helping concerned parent Shannan Nelson get fast-food giants to stop using pink slime in their menus;
- protecting vital fish off the United States Mid-Atlantic coast through comprehensive legislative reform including the first ever protection for river herring that are critically important to the health of the ocean's ecosystem;
- calling on President Obama to enact a National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease, which was released this past May;
- protecting students in Jackson, Miss., from being handcuffed as punishment for noncriminal activity (with AlterNet);
- ensuring that high-school student Maverick Couch's stand for equality does not get him suspended from school (with Lambda Legal);
- protecting 1,400 acres of the San Francisco Bay's natural wetlands from a Cargill development project;
- assisting in banning commercial shark fishing in the Bahamas and turning the country's 240,000 square miles of ocean to a shark sanctuary (with Bahamas National Trust);
- helping persuade the U.K. government to create the largest protected marine reserve in the world — the Chagos Islands, in the Indian Ocean;
- helping gain passage of the Matthew Shepard Act, a law that makes it illegal to commit hate crimes (with the Human Rights Campaign); and
- helping protect western Oregon's old growth forests from being destroyed by a plan to open them up to logging (with The Wilderness Society).
Other recent PetitionSite milestones include increasing petition signers 60 percent year over year and growing the Care2 Take Action Platform to extend the power of Care2 petitions across 230 media partners with a combined reach of more than 150 million people.
Here, FundRaising Success talks with Paynter about best practices that nonprofit organizations can learn from Care2's tremendous growth.
FundRaising Success: Care2 has helped raise so much money for so many causes. Are there any best practices that nonprofit organizations themselves can glean from Care2 in regard to fundraising?
Randy Paynter: The first thing would be the value of e-mail. We hear a lot of talk about social media, and there seems to be a belief that e-mail is becoming less important, or at least not so important, in terms of acquisition and engagement. That couldn't be further from the truth.
Second would be the importance of simple actions. Always focus on making it as easy as possible for people to take action and be part of the solution and feel good about that. Care2's 20 million members appreciate the opportunity to take action — especially when they are shown appreciation in return for taking that action.
Third, the importance of ongoing education. We have a lot of content on our site aimed at keeping our members informed and educated on the various causes they support. So when they take an action, they're not doing it blindly, but they actually have been informed about the issues and continue to be educated.
The ongoing education keeps them involved and also makes it easier for them to spread awareness of the issue.
For Care2, that increases the loyalty of the people on our site, which in turn creates more valuable donors for our clients.
FS: How important do you feel it is for nonprofits to engage supporters as advocates and as fundraisers rather than as just donors?
RP: It is absolutely critical to success. We love it if a client [organization] doesn't initially go out with an appeal straight out asking for money when someone takes action [through a Care2 petition, etc.]. It's better to really focus on developing a relationship with that individual, so that it's not just a transaction but a lifetime relationship.
Hopefully, our clients are looking at the lifetime value of a lead, not just at the transaction. Not only does that lead supporters to donate more over the years and stay loyal, but it also makes them more likely to tell their friends about the organization, to spread the word and speak positively about it.