More than 50 former employees of petition site Change.org sent an open letter to the company's leadership Tuesday demanding that it answer questions about money raised through a "Justice for George Floyd" petition and commit to donating that money.
The petition became Change.org's most-signed US petition ever last week, with more than 17 million signatures. Change.org solicits donations from petition signers, urging them to "become a hero" by donating a few dollars to "get this petition on the agenda."
But last week, people who gave money through the petition told Business Insider they felt duped by Change.org's call for donations after realizing the money doesn't go to Floyd's family or to any charity — rather, the venture-backed company keeps the money and uses it to cover operating costs and expensive marketing campaigns that further promote Change.org and its petitions.
"Since Change.org is a for-profit corporation which depends on collecting new email addresses to make money, these actions constitute Change.org profiting from the death of Black people," the former employees wrote.
The open letter calls on Change.org to disclose how much money was raised through the Justice for George Floyd petition and commit to donating that money to Floyd's family or to relevant charities, and to do the same for prominent petitions that call for justice for Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
The former employees also demand that Change.org draft a policy against profiting from such petitions in the future and allow petition creators to opt out of the company's fundraising mechanism.
"Change.org is a for-profit corporation owned and led primarily by white people, with fewer than a dozen Black staff members out of 264 global staff, and must take decisive action to avoid any possibility of profit from anti-Black violence and systems of white supremacy," they wrote.
Change.org previously declined to answer Business Insider's questions about how much money was raised through the Floyd petition, citing company policy. A Change.org spokesperson said the money was used to buy ads promoting the petition on Facebook and Instagram, purchase billboard advertisements across the US, and otherwise cover Change.org's operating costs.
In response to the open letter, a Change.org spokesperson defended the company's revenue model but acknowledged it "can do much more."
"In a process led by Black staff, we're actively working on how the record-breaking signatures on Kellen's petition — and the money contributed to promote the campaign — can be of most service to this historic movement. Promotions from signers contributed to how fast and far this spread, and helped drive impact; and we know we can do much more. We'll publicly share more as details are finalized," the spokesperson said.