How to Maximize Impact with Eye-catching Petition Photos

The right cover photo, paired with a compelling headline, can be the difference between catching the attention of a new supporter or people scrolling past your petition. There are some basic best practices, such as using an image that measures 1,600 pixels by 900 pixels so that the photo displays well on all screen sizes. Also, check with the image’s owner or photographer to make sure you have permission to use any photos that you did not take.

The best photos will capture an emotion. If you can’t take a picture that complements your petition, or if you don’t have a license to use photos of the places or people involved in your petition, there are still some decisions that you can make when choosing stock photography or creating a visual to ensure that you capture the attention of potential supporters. This guide is meant to help you understand some research-based best practices for choosing the best possible image to accompany a petition you start on Change.org, but these insights also apply to all forms of online activism and making sure your message gets the attention of the greatest number of possible supporters.


Effective image subjects

To dive deeper into what makes images effective, we examined a dataset of nearly 2 million photos featured in Change.org online petitions over the last several years. For each image, we identified the subjects and objects in the photographs, the emotional nature of facial expressions, and analyzed the brightness and color composition of each image to see if any of these correlated with above-average petition performance. Having some kind of image is critically important: Using a minimum cutoff of five supporter signatures, the median number of signatures for a petition with images was 78, compared to a median of 42 signatures for petitions overall. Of course, this number includes a wide range of petitions, from those with just a handful of supporters to some viral petitions that earned several million signatures. 

Of the images of objects detected 100 or more times in Change.org petitions, a few stood out as being particularly effective. Animal petitions and animal rights were particularly popular on Change.org. A separate analysis of animal petitions showed that four of the top five images related to animal rights and animals housed in poor conditions. Animal shelters, kennels, cages, and zoos received an average of more than 1,100 signatures per petition. Endangered animals, stray dogs, and petitions for working animals or animal-related sports rounded out the top of the list.

Images featuring elements of nature were also popular petition photo choices. Photos of the sky, trees, and plants were the most common and could be found in about half of all nature-related petition images, which makes sense – those objects would be detected in almost any picture of a city or natural landscape. Water and grass could be found in a quarter of the photos, followed by more specific objects, such as nature reserves and the atmosphere.

We ran a separate analysis to find the most common people in petition images and found that over a third of images included a child. Businesspeople and white-collar professionals, including officials and spokespeople, were also common. Surprisingly, there were more photos of superheroes than police officers in petition images, even though police officers were included in many protest images.

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A photograph won’t determine whether a petition succeeds or fails; if your petition affects a small but invested group of people, it can be hard to get the word out to the community and galvanize support. Activism is personal, and the key to success is making a connection with people who will support your cause. Some petitions campaign for the addition or removal of emoticons. Images with emoticons or smiley faces acting as fillers can easily be replaced with images that inspire – rather than convey – emotion. If you feel like you’ve gained a sense of how to use a photo to inspire others and have a cause you’d like to support, you can start a petition on Change.org here.


Change.org’s most popular petition images

Pictures of homes, faces, and animations or illustrations were popular among petition writers, but an image’s popularity does not necessarily mean that it will be effective. 

Of the most popular petition images on Change.org, animals – presumably related to animal rights petitions – again dominated the top of the list. Pictures of buildings, neighborhoods, and places where people live also performed well. When combined with an effective headline and thoughtful text, those images can evoke a strong sense of place and inspire viewers to take action. Familiar objects, like pictures of homes and children, are relatable and can strike an emotional chord in potential supporters.

Despite their ubiquity, some popular images seemed to do little to inspire petition signatures. The line between animations and cartoons can be vague; generally, illustrations encompass hand drawings, as well as logos and graphics created digitally with professional design software. One possible reason for the low number of median signatures could be that many of the images are grainy or appear to have been hastily created using tools like Microsoft Paint. Paired with screenshots, clip art, and selfies, which also ranked poorly, these low-performing images could indicate a lack of effort in finding petition images, which will be broadcast to potential supporters.

A few extra points on faces before you start your petition. In this image categorization, “faces” are not profile pictures: They are too-close, tightly cropped images, where only a fraction of the face or head is visible. Vertical or square portrait images that are cropped to fit the landscape dimensions of online images generally land in this category. If cropping a vertical image cuts out parts of the head or face, consider choosing another image.


Try smiling

A picture of a smiling person will not be appropriate for every petition, but if you have the choice between a picture of someone who appears happy or sad, opt for the happier photo. An analysis of petition photos showed that happy faces were more common than any other facial expression in petition images, and with good reason: Smiling photos may be the most effective. Petitions with photos of people who appeared happy got more support than petitions of people wearing neutral or sad expressions. On average, happy faces received 24 more signatures than neutral facial expressions and 35 more than fearful or sad photos. 

In a petition to reinstate the comment section for the Special Books by Special Kids (SBSK) YouTube channel, the organization chose to use a happy picture of one of the kids, rather than a sad or distraught photo. The happy photo helps set a positive, hopeful tone for the petition, and the petition ultimately received support from more than half a million people.


The right amount of color

You may not have a lot of control over whether you can get a license to use a professional image, but one simple decision that petition writers can control is the colorfulness of the image featured on the petition. 

In the world of online petitions, there is such a thing as too much color. We analyzed our image dataset to compute “colorfulness” (according to Hasler and Süsstrunk, 2003), a measure of saturation and color contrast on a scale of zero to 210 in colorfulness. Highly saturated colors will be bright and receive higher color scores, whereas monochromatic, sepia tone, or grayscale images will rank on the lower end of the scale. Black-and-white images were ranked at zero, and images that featured primary colors with full saturation fell toward the top end of the spectrum, around 210. 

In general, the images with a color score of 20 to 29 – less colorful images – were correlated with more successful petitions. That level of color corresponds with images of the real world that look the most realistic. 

Images with a colorfulness score of 20 to 39

Images with a colorfulness score of 80 to 89

Images with a colorfulness score of 190 to 209

The success of the outlier images in the 95 to 120 color rating range reflects viral petitions and a combination of successful writing and social media promotion more than the effectiveness of more colorful petition photos. A #JusticeForAudrey petition, demanding that 12 Indonesian girls be held accountable for the alleged (and possibly fabricated) beating of another high school student, received nearly 4 million signatures. Annee Schwank, a professional illustrator, designed the petition photo, but in the case of these high-performing petitions, the preexisting social media presence of the cause likely contributed more to the petition’s success than the cover image. 

Other petitions that broke 2 million signatures included a petition against salary increases for Portugal’s supreme federal court, one against raising the retirement age in Russia, one for a dog allegedly killed by a supermarket employee, and one against internet censorship. While we generally recommend avoiding adding text to images, these images represent effective exceptions. Of the top five petitions, four featured primary colors, and three included text overlaid on the image.

Images associated with highly-viral petitions.

Animations and illustrations generally do not perform well, but the graphics in these viral petitions are well-designed and match the petition. For instance, it can be difficult to take a picture that encapsulates the issue of internet censorship, so a well-designed graphic can be a smart choice. Rather than using bright blue and bright yellow, which would have pushed the image closer to the 200-mark of colorfulness, the designer chose more muted colors. The contrast between the text and background is easy to read, and the image is simple and crisp.


Closing thoughts

Adding an image is one of the easiest ways to gain visibility and supporters for your petition. While choosing a perfect image may feel daunting, a few simple guidelines can help you along the way. Identify which emotion your petition should evoke, whether it’s outrage at a legal injustice or empathy for a vulnerable group of people, and then find an image that captures it. Choose well-composed, high-definition photos, rather than grainy screenshots or hasty illustrations: If your photo looks like an afterthought, viewers might treat your petition as one. Finally, remember that color is important, and images of real people and real places tend to perform best. 

Ready to start a petition on Change.org?


Nick Allardice is the Chief Product Officer at Change.org. Twitter, LinkedIn.

Methodology Notes

For the bar chart, we set the cutoff for facial expressions at 75%. We chose that threshold by making histograms for each facial expression and looking for a natural break in the data. The bars represent the median votes per petition.

Data for this project were provided by Change.org and then treated to facial recognition analysis and image color detection with pyimagesearch. Statistical calculations and visualizations were created using pandas and matplotlib.

Crafting Effective Petition Titles: The Impact of A Title’s First Word

With such little time to grab a reader’s attention, we were curious if some words were better than others for leading off a petition title. We suspected that popular advice such as using “positive,” “active,” or “motivational” words would show a positive relationship with petition success, but advice like this can be difficult to grasp for petition starters looking for more concrete examples when they’re just starting a petition on Change.org.

In order to do this, we utilized the General Inquirer, an aggregation of human-coded word tags in dozens of possible categories as simple as “Positive” vs. “Negative” or as complex as “Relates to morality” or “Implies direct causation.” 

You may have some intuitions about which of these categories might matter, but what we found was somewhat surprising. Through this research, we discovered 5 categories of words reliably correlated with above-average petition performance.


The Types of First Words That Matter Most

Exploring each of these categories, we quickly found examples of high-visibility petitions that effectively used words from each of the categories mentioned above:

Diving deeper, we can infer more clues as to why these specific categories might be the most successful by looking in a more qualitative way. For example, both positive and negative words appear to be successful (though positive words are more successful overall), indicating that words with a high valence, positive or negative, are a strong choice for petition starters.

There are many lessons to be learned by looking at which specific words (not word categories) are disproportionately represented in the highest performing petitions.


The Specific Words That Work Best for Petition Success

One of our most interesting findings was that the most common words used were not necessarily the most effective. They were by no means poor performers, either, but we still expected to see more overlap between the most common words on the site and the most effective ones than what actually emerged in the analysis.

The most common words leading off a petition title on the site were nearly all action verbs—not surprising, given how common this sort of advice is. Words like help, stop, keep, and ban, are all very specific action verbs that were among the most common on the platform, and each enjoyed 2-5x the median number of signatures of for all petitions.

However, the most common words were by no means the most effective words. Words like grant, save, oppose, and protect are rarer, but when used they correlated with nearly 10x the median number of supporters for petitions not using them. This significant difference in efficacy is somewhat unexpected, and offers an exceptional opportunity for those who can utilize these words in their petition titles.

In general, these top performing words almost all seem to be related to helping those in need. Whether it is helping workers with disabilities, athletes exercising a right to free speech, individuals and families coping with cancer, or ordinary citizens seeking the right to protest, the focus on being of use to others seems key.

It’s also important to take into consideration the expectations and nuances of specific cultural audiences when crafting a headline. We also found some interesting and significant differences in first word effectiveness differences depending on the target country. 


Cross-Cultural Differences in the Efficacy of Specific First Words

Cultural norms and expectations can differ significantly from country to country, and keeping these expectations in mind can play a large role in crafting the most effective petition title possible. For example, studiesone have found Brazilians, French, Swiss, and Maltese score highest for extroversion, while Nigerians, Moroccans, and Indonesians scored lowest. German speaking Swiss, Danes, and Germans scored highest for Openness while Hong Kong Chinese, Northern Irish, and Kuwaitis scored the lowest. Significant additional differences were found along all other personality aspects of Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness.

Cultural personality differences were evident when we explored the most effective first words by country. In the United States, words related to justice and opposition were conspicuously popular, perhaps reflecting an American ethos of seeking justice and challenging authority. In Canada, the U.K., and Australia, the less-ambiguously pro-social term “Save” was the most effective first word, and the best-performing words seemed to be generally more positive than in the U.S. This is perhaps not surprising, as all 3 of these Commonwealth nations ranked above the United States in the latest World Happiness Report.


Thinking Critically About The First Word

While the data shows significant results for the impact of both categories of first words as well as some specific first words, it’s important to consider the selection of the first word in your petition title within the context of your goals. Shoehorning words shown to be more effective in general is not a good idea if doing so reduces the clarity of your title, so be sure to consider carefully weigh your word choice before starting your petition.

A good strategy could be writing out 5-10 variations on your petition title using language that comes naturally to you, then rereading this guide and editing your titles to utilize words that:

  • Have an emotional tone (either positive or negative)
  • Imply power or strength
  • Relate to virtue
  • Are active verbs
  • Take into consideration any specific cultural considerations you know about your target audience

After editing your titles, select the one you feel leverages our findings on effective first words but also feels authentic to you—the best work on Change.org does, after all, come from the heart. While the work we’ve presented here should certainly give you a great starting off point, the very first word used in your title should still feel right for you, your mission, and your cause.

After you’ve read this guide and feel ready to get started, you can begin a petition on Change.org here.


Nick Allardice is the Chief Product Officer at Change.org. Twitter, LinkedIn.


Notes on Words Tested

As noted above, we tested several word categories from the General Inquirer that showed no reliable correlations, positive or negative, with petition signatures. The full set of tested words is as follows:

  • Valence (positive or negative)
  • Semantic:
    • Strong
    • Weak
    • Active
    • Passive
  • Emotion, Virtue, and Vice
    • Pain
    • Feeling
    • Arousal
    • Emotion
    • Virtue
    • Vice
  • Emotional Expressiveness
    • Understated
    • Overstated
  • Institutionally-Related
    • Religion
    • Government
    • Legal
    • Military
    • Political
    • Arts/Sports/Self Expression
    • Economics 
    • Academia
  • Roles
    • Activity
    • Work
  • Social Categories
    • Race
    • Gender
    • Age
    • Kinship
  • Pronouns
  • Yes/No, negations, and interjections
  • Cognitive Orientation
  • Verb and Adjective Types
    • Verbs giving an interpretative explanation of an action, such as encourage, mislead, or flatter.
    • Straight descriptive verbs of an action or feature of an action, such as run, walk, write, or read.
    • Verbs describing mental or emotional states. usually detached from specific observable events, such as love, trust, or abhor.
    • Adjectives referring to relations between people, such as unkind, aloof, or supportive.
    • Adjectives describing people apart from their relations to one another, such as thrifty or restless.
  • Power and Strength
  • Rectitude
  • Respect
  • Affection
  • Wealth
  • Well-Being
  • Enlightenment
  • Skill

Discover How Crucial Details in Petition Titles Pay Off in Supporter Engagement

Writing a petition titles is one of the most important things a petition starter does on Change.org. These titles—or headlines—are the first thing a potential supporter sees and the only text likely to be read by someone who encounters a petition on social media.

The internet is full of tips for how to write content titles, and much of this advice is backed by millions of data points; however, much of it is also sensationalized and rapidly becoming outdated as yesterday’s innovations become today’s tired clichés. What’s more, a Change.org petition title should be crafted for a diverse, dynamic, socially-conscious audience—on the whole, Change.org’s petition supporters are savvy, passionate, and more likely to resent clickbait titles than be lured by simple gimmicks. Our research here should offer several key insights on how adding crucial key details to a petition title will help you achieve the change you hope for when you start your own petition.


Findings on Longer Titles Upend Conventional Wisdom

One of the most surprising insights we found when looking into the data behind writing great petition titles had to do with the length of petition headlines. We expected our work to confirm conventional internet wisdom: Brief is better. In fact, a quick look at the Change.org data seems to confirm this.

It seems to be an open-and-shut case when it comes to title length: Write short, direct titles that grab a user’s attention. But a deeper look at the data revealed something more interesting: Most successful titles on Change.org are short because most titles overall on Change.org are short. There are simply more short titles than long ones, so of course they see more overall success.

This becomes abundantly clear looking at the median supporter signatures a petition receives relative to its title length. We actually found that supporter signatures peaked at 13 words, which intuitively seemed much too long for these to be good, engaging titles.

So what are these long titles doing so well? And are they truly better than short ones? Again, titles this long run counter to every narrative about tiny attention spans on the web, but the effect plays out quite clearly in the data from over 164,000 English language petitions.

We combed through hundreds of high performing long titles—those with 11 or more words—and found that the best of them are filled with rich descriptors and powerful details, immediately telling a story in miniature.

For example, two highly-successful conservation petitions make specific reference to the living creatures within the environment. Both Florida’s Gulf Coast is Dying. Millions of Dead Fish, Sea Turtles, Manatees, and Dolphins! and Protect polar bears. No oil drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge are fundamentally about the protection of entire ecosystems—the Florida Gulf Coast and the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Overall, a majority of people support protecting the environment, but research has shown that the idea of conservation can take on a highly partisan tone. By lengthening titles here to include familiar inhabitants of these places, the petition instantly becomes not only about saving nature as an abstraction, but about saving living, sentient creatures.

In other cases, the use of key adjectives, adverbs, and other details fundamentally change the tenor of an entire petition. UEFA and & FIFA should punish Sergio Ramos for intentionally hurting Mohamed Salah is an entirely different title because of intentionally, and seeking support for the treatment for a rare disease becomes deeply personal when it is the only treatment for a fatal disease affecting children.

This is even more pronounced in a Canadian petition involving the killing of a deer. Using the term fawn (which specifically refers to a very young dear, a child) goes beyond simply being accurate—it ventures into the territory of evoking deeper human sympathy than might be brought out simply by calling the animal a “deer.” Moreover, the somewhat redundant use of “with a police cruiser,” given we already know the offender is a police officer, restates the point that this wasn’t just any individual. Police cruisers are symbols of authority in society, and including it as a key detail here serves to reinforce the seriousness of the transgression that took place.

In medium-length titles, there’s often a single additional detail that skillfully adds a world of context to the line. Oftentimes, these come in the form of prepositional phrases that are highly evocative to a potential supporter—they address domestic animals “in extreme cold,” contrast the grandeur of the rain forest with “cheap palm oil,” or use personification of the entire planet, describing Earth as it “chokes on plastic.” 

In many cases, these details are deft and dramatic, vividly painting a scene in a single phrase. By adding a highly descriptive detail, these titles deliver dynamic micro-stories designed to inspire both interest and action in a reader who may just be casually scrolling a page.


Short Titles Are Still Tremendously Effective

Of course, the majority of titles on Change.org are short, and with good reason. While our research showed that keeping things brief in a title should not be a hard and fast rule, it can still be tremendously effective. 

Other aspects of our work delved into the importance of first words in titles, and nowhere is this more apparent than in short, direct petition titles. Nearly all of these titles begin with an action verb, and the ones that don’t all have other immediately identifiable nouns that evoke the interest of the reader. For example, the petition Nipsey Hussle Square launched almost immediately after the murder of the rapper and community activist, and it achieved victory in less than two weeks.

In some cases, though, these titles don’t begin with verbs at all, instead posing a brief statement that reads as so irrefutable, it demands immediate civic action. This is the case with the half-a-million-signatures-and-counting petition Children Don’t Belong in Cages, a petition to the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump over its policies surrounding immigrant detention. The issue itself has become a political powder keg in the United States, in no small part due to the fact that petitions like this one draw hundreds of thousands of supporters to the cause by presenting a situation in its simplest, most devastatingly moral terms.


Worry Less about Length, More About Story

The biggest takeaway from our work was seeing that petition starters are hugely effective in their writing in a variety of ways, from using simple and unforgettable phrases to writing longer titles that engage supporters with meaningful details. What ultimately emerged from this research is that there are multiple approaches, all with their own merits, of writing titles that attract legions of supporters to a cause. The true challenge for any petition starter is to consider the options and ultimately decide on the most effective strategy for winning signatures and support.

The good news is, there is no one way to write a title except to be deeply passionate about a cause. This simple truth shines through in titles both short and long, and the truism that any worthy cause can find its supporters was remarkably clear across all the types of titles studied on the platform. Ultimately, it’s your passion for your cause and your dedication to moving potential supporters to action that will ultimately be the greatest predictor of success when you start a petition on Change.org.


Nick Allardice is the Chief Product Officer at Change.org. Twitter, LinkedIn.

See the Most Common People Addressed by Change.org Petitions

Change.org is a global platform made up of passionate individuals, from seasoned activists to first time agitators. No matter the individual, though, petition starters all share the same goal—bringing attention to issues in need of action. This includes both the supporters who sign your petition and the individuals or organizations with the actual decision-making power to enact the change you’re seeking.

A petition, like any story, needs characters, and often a central character of a Change.org petition is the person or organization the petition aims to influence.

Based on our research, nearly a quarter of petitions on Change.org name a known public figure in their title. Almost always, this person is the petition’s ‘Decision Maker,’ the individual chosen by the petition starter as the person who has the most power to respond to the petition directly. One of the most crucial steps in starting a petition on Change.org is identifying who this person is and ensuring your petition is written as something they’ll notice.


Politicians Are the Most Frequently Addressed Individuals on Change.org

By far, the most common types of decision makers addressed on Change.org were either major political figures or leaders of large private or public organizations. We examined petitions in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada—unsurprisingly, we found that the leader of each respective country during the studied period was its most petitioned individual. Only one person—U.S. President Donald J. Trump—appears in lists of the top 10 individuals petitioned in each of the four studied countries, which is perhaps not surprising given his status as the most polarizing U.S. President on record

Only one other person, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, appeared on more than one list (he appeared on all except Australia). Again, this is perhaps expected, given that our studied time period coincided with a period of unprecedented controversy for a company with over 2.4 billion monthly active users. Interestingly, the United States was the only country in the study whose top 10 list consisted exclusively of its own citizens.

Canada accounted for the smallest volume of petitions in the study (about 6% of the total), but they were the most likely overall to be addressing petitions to their head of state—1 out of every 20 Canadian petitions
directly addressed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The remainder of their list was likewise dominated by Canadian politicians, with only one spot occupied by an individual not holding elected office in Canada.

In the United States, three current or former state governors—Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jerry Brown of California, and Rick Scott of Florida—made the list, as did former President Barack Obama. The U.S. list was also the only one to include multiple individuals who have not held government office—bestselling memoirist and former First Lady Michelle Obama, Zuckerberg, and National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell The U.S.

The top spot in the United States belonged to U.S. President Donald J. Trump, who was the subject of the most-signed petition in the history of the platform in 2016. While the most-signed Trump petition during our study’s time frame actually originated in the United Kingdom after the visiting President made comments on the National Health Service, Americans petitioned him with extraordinarily high frequency on virtually every major stance taken by his administration. Below are the top ten petitions directed at President Trump during the period we studied.

In the United Kingdom and Australia, all but two of the most petitioned individuals were non-politicians (Mr. Zuckerberg in the UK and Elon Musk in Australia. Theresa May, who announced her resignation as UK Prime Minister in May of 2019, received hundreds of petitions from Britons during the studied period. While heads of state topped the lists in all four countries, Ms. May was the recipient of the most-signed petition among the group, a one-million-signatures-plus call for a second EU Referendum vote.

While Ms. May’s most visible petition dealt with Brexit, it was hardly the only cause that activists took up with the Prime Minister’s office. Below are the 10 most signed petitions directed at Theresa May since 2018, with advocates for women’s rights, access to healthcare, and stricter reforms on topics ranging from hate crimes to cell phone use while driving all crafting highly successful petitions aimed at influencing the Prime Minister.


How to “Name Drop” in a Title for Maximum Impact

When seeking to create major change, petition starters oftentimes wonder whether it’s better to address an organization itself (e.g., the U.S. House of Representatives) or instead target specific individuals with prominent roles there (e.g., Speaker Nancy Pelosi). We found evidence of effective petitions that do both. 

There are dozens of examples of viral, highly successful petitions that address either specific people or organizations as a whole, and some of the best petitions find a specific person within an organization responsible for decision-making (e.g., a VP of Product for a petition to a technology company or a politician within a political body rather than the entire body itself).

Direct addresses to individuals do have a better chance of being seen by the actual decision maker, but in many cases using an organization’s name in the title will be a stronger method for quickly attracting petition views and support. It’s likely that a blended approach works best here; in other words, addressing a petition to an individual with true decision making power while also mentioning their organization in order to maximize search visibility and engagement with potential supporters.

After you’ve read our research and feel ready to write a petition to create the change you hope to see in the world, you can start a petition on Change.org here.


Nick Allardice is the Chief Product Officer at Change.org. Twitter, LinkedIn.

See the Most Common Organizations Petitioned on Change.org

Since its beginnings over a decade ago, Change.org has always been a platform where individuals and communities come together to hold truth to power. In many cases, Change.org petitions have earned hundreds of thousands of supporters en route to catalyzing major changes at large organizations, but some petitions with only a few hundred signatures have drawn responses and led to policy updates from multibillion-dollar corporations.

One key aspect of our full analysis of petition titles was the use of named entity recognition to learn about the specifics of how petition starters use the names of people, places, and organizations in titles. Somewhat surprisingly, we found that organizations, even more than prominent individuals, were named in titles.

Of course, ‘organization’ is an extremely broad term, and named entity recognition works by checking text against a large dictionary of known organizations. On Change.org, the most common organizations receiving petitions are government entities—the U.S. Congress, U.K. Parliament, and the United Nations all ranked within the top 5 entities whose petitions received the most overall signatures (the two individuals in the top 5, Donald Trump and Theresa May, are discussed in our profile of Change.org’s most petitioned individuals).


Demanding Change from Business and Technology Leaders

Change.org petition starters petitioned thousands of organizations between January 2018 and May 2019, covering issues from equality in the workplace to the particulars of goods and services offered. No private company in the world is more petitioned than Netflix, which appeared hundreds of times in petition titles during the studied period.

This was in no small part due to the fact that the streaming giant has revived so many fan favorite TV shows over the years, and petitions have been started to either revive or produce dozens of projects on the platform. Petition starters have reason to be encouraged, too—a highly publicized petition to save Lucifer garnered over 300,000 signatures and became part of a broader movement to save the show that eventually led directly to its pickup for a fourth season.

Several large U.S. tech firms appeared near the top of the list, with none receiving more petitions than Facebook. The company was plagued by scandals during most of the period studied, so it was no surprise to see them toward the top of the list. However, unlike many other large tech firms whose petitions were primarily about product features and user experience (for example, this million-signature-plus petition to Snapchat), the most widely-supported petitions to Facebook tended to center on security, privacy, or content hosted on the site.

Examining the petition targets most frequently addressed on the site, it becomes clear that Change.org petition starters had particular focus on government, media/entertainment, and animal rights:

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the list is that companies at the intersection of media and technology appear more frequently than any other type of organization. The list contains 5 social media companies (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and Twitter), 5 film studios (Netflix, Warner Brothers, Sony, Marvel, and The Walt Disney Company), 4 video game companies (Nintendo, Epic Games, Ubisoft, and EA Games), and 3 major news outlets (BBC, ABC, and FOX Broadcasting Company).

In terms of the so-called FAANG Companies—Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google—4 of the five made the list. Noticeably absent is Amazon, which was petitioned less than its counterparts despite its own share of controversy during the studied time period.

Trends across the Change.org platform, both in our research and in previous work, show that some of its most passionate activism relates to animal rights, and this was apparent in the large number of petitions directed to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as well as fast food providers, who are frequently petitioned on issues related to sustainable food production and animal welfare.

What does this mean for petition starters?

During the time period we studied, all Change.org petitions needed to be addressed to a ‘Decision Maker;’ that is, the person ‘who can make this change.’ Decision makers have historically been a major part of the petition creation process at Change.org—including a decision maker in a petition allows you to reach out directly to the person best suited to help you achieve your goal. It’s a more personal approach than simply naming a corporation.

That said, decision makers are often less well known than the organizations they represent. While there are many exceptions to this rule, in general, potential signers will be more aware of an organization than they are of the individuals who work there, and prominently displaying an organization’s name will certainly make your petition instantly recognizable when shared on social media.

We found substantial evidence that petitions to organizations are common—even more so than petitions to individuals—and countless stories of petition victories often involve petitions directed at entire organizations. Like all choices in crafting a petition, your ultimate choice depends on the story you want to tell, but in terms of achieving widespread visibility and instant recognition with a petition title, directly naming the organization you hope to influence should be a major consideration when you begin your petition creation journey.

After reading our report and making a decision on how to address your petition, you can start a petition on Change.org here.


Nick Allardice is the Chief Product Officer at Change.org. Twitter, LinkedIn.

#Hashtag #Victory: Using Hashtags Effectively in Petition Titles

It was only in 2007 that the hashtag fundamentally changed how we communicate with one another online. First proposedby Chris Messina on Twitter as a way to create like-minded groups and facilitate conversations, it has reshaped the internet and serves as a primary communication tool on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and dozens of other social media sites.

Hashtags have always been about organizing and finding like-minded people—the groups who are talking about what you’re talking about. Naturally, the tool was adopted by activist communities, where it has propelled conversations from #Ferguson to #LoveWins to #BlackLivesMatter around the world.

Because it’s so tied to social movements, it seems natural that the hashtag would appear in Change.org petition titles as well. Because hashtags haven’t historically been a search feature of the site, however, their use has essentially been symbolic—a way to amplify a message and create an identity.

It was a big surprise, then, when we analyzed the use of hashtags in petition titles and found they correlated with higher petition performance. Although hashtags only appear in about 1% of petition titles, those petitions do exceptionally well, earning nearly 3x the median supporters of petitions in general.

Of course, simply adding a hashtag to a petition title doesn’t automatically earn supporters—it’s just one piece of a much larger puzzle. Still, the outsize performance of these hashtag-containing titles inspired us to take a closer look. People who start a petition on Change.org tend to be passionate individuals with a knack for making their voices heard, and we wanted to find out how hashtags were helping them do it.


Why Do Hashtags Perform Well in Titles?

Most petitions that use hashtags effectively in their titles tend to be part of larger movements. These hashtags provide a common identity with a movement when it is being broadcast across other social platforms and give petitions a kind of brand unity that’s instantly recognizable to supporters. They also serve the secondary purpose of giving new supporters a ready-made hashtag for their own promotion of the petition or the cause.

This was certainly the case when we examined the most-signed petitions that use hashtags in their titles.

#StopYulin has been a recognizable call to action on Twitter for years, aimed at ending thehugely controversial Lychee and Dog Meat Festival in Yulin, Guangxi, China. Petitions to stop the festival have been among the most widely supported in Change.org history, with multiple campaigns earning well over 2 million signatures. Although the festival continued in 2019, activists have remained undeterred, and dozens of U.S.-based animal shelters rescued dogs ahead of the event this year.

In the U.K., #SayNoToNoDeal became a popular hashtag for the roughly 50% of Britons who believed a “No Deal” Brexit would lead to a bad outcome for the nation. A petition to Parliament, using only this hashtag as its title, became one of the most successful Brexit-related petitions on Change.org.

In hundreds of other examples, hashtags being used to promote a cause elsewhere on social media were included in petition titles, with dozens of petitions using constructions such as #JusticeFor_____ and #Save_____, reflecting other Change.org data that positive, action-oriented language tended to perform very well with civic activism communities.


Hashtags Help Signal and Start Movements

As we’ve alluded to above, the hashtags used on Change.org during this period of research didn’t serve the same purpose they do on Twitter, Instagram, or other social platforms—petition starters simply used them to provide unity with broader missions and movements of which a Change.org petition was simply a part. Since most petitions receive substantial visitor traffic from social sites, the use of hashtags in titles provides continuity and a sense of community around a cause.

The biggest takeaway from this analysis is that the presence of a hashtag indicated that petition starters had created or joined forces with a larger activist community, and this hashtag was used to promote the spread of their petitions across other social channels. If you’re writing a petition that’s part of a movement already using a signature hashtag, you should consider including it in titles simply because it’s easy to identify and probably already has traction elsewhere. Petition starters who intend to promote their campaigns on social media may want to include a custom hashtag in their petition title that they can later use on other platforms.

It’s likely that some of the success seen for hashtag titles is driven more by the fact that support communities around these causes already existed, but a Change.org petition served as a singular vehicle for supporters to amplify their message. Nonetheless, the differences we found were substantial and should merit consideration for any new petition starter on Change.org.

We hope this work helps guide you as you begin thinking about crafting a petition around your own cause, and you can start crafting your message for change here.


Nick Allardice is the Chief Product Officer at Change.org. Twitter, LinkedIn.

Crafting Headlines for Change: The Art and Science of Petition Titles

Activism is about passion, but it’s also always been a numbers game. While many of the great social movements of history tend to be remembered for the words and images of their most prominent leaders, few have brought about lasting change without inspiring hundreds, thousands, or millions of ordinary citizens to join the cause.

Historically, these movements were mostly born locally—in meeting halls or gathering places often deliberately hidden from public scrutiny. The advent of the web, however, brought a new way for people to gather and organize. More often than not, online conversations around agitating for change eventually lead to a common proposal:

“We should start a petition.”

For all the online hand-wringing that took place over Millennial “slacktivism” in the early part of the decade, petitions like those on Change.org regularly lead to life-changing outcomes by influencing policy and decision making at the highest levels.

But convincing people to do anything is hard, and convincing thousands of people to support something can feel impossible. Platforms like Change.org give users a place to push for the change they want to see, but it’s still up to individual activists to craft a pitch and tell a story that moves readers from interest to engagement to action.

The best titles get attention and tell your story immediately

On Change.org (or anywhere you’re writing on the web) the first—and most important—chance you have to tell your story is in a title. While there are an abundance of resources online on how to write great titles, many of them advocate for hooks or clickbait strategies that could feel tired or played out to an average reader, and potential petition signers are not necessarily ‘average readers.’ The Change.org platform is the largest online hub for civic activism in the world, and the 6 million and counting petitions started on the site represent one of the most comprehensive raw datasets on activism ever collected.

People engaged in online activism are passionate, motivated, and looking for a cause to support, so while attention-grabbing techniques may pique someone’s interest, the true language of protest and change requires making a rapid, meaningful connection between your reader and your cause. Words, structure, tone, and length all matter, and everything needs to come together in a very limited space. What’s more, activism is highly personal—creating a campaign on Change.org can feel overwhelming and emotional, but knowing you’ve written a great title is the first step toward building the confidence to create the change you hope for.

This first-of-its-kind report from Change.org is based on raw text and data from over 164,000 English language petitions that were started between January 2018 and May 2019 and gained at least 5 signatures. While the report is ostensibly about Change.org, the broader goal is to help activists operating in any medium understand the language that drives others to action. The report exists as a tool for budding activists everywhere and is intended to inspire individuals to take the first steps toward creating work they can be proud of and which could drastically alter the lives of others.


Certain first words in titles correlate with high performance

Readers on the internet are bombarded with messages—“Like” this, “Favorite” that—so in the battle to bring supporters to your cause, the minutiae is what matters and what can truly set a petition apart. General wisdom says to write a title in a strong, assertive voice, but how can you set that tone from the very first word a reader sees?

To explore this, we examined several word categories from the General Inquirer, which provides human-coded word tags as simple as “Positive” vs. “Negative” or as complex as “Relates to morality” or “Implies direct causation.” After comparing first words across the dataset of petition tiles with the 15 tag categories, we found five word categories had a statistically significant correlation with petition signatures.

Within this graphic are several general ideas, such as portraying confidence, control, and positivity, but what does this actually look like in practice? We next looked at the top 10 words that fell into one or more of the above categories, exploring how frequently they appear at the start of titles and how many signatures these petitions receive.

Of course, just starting a petition with a previously effective word doesn’t necessarily lead to success; still, petition titles beginning with these words tended to overperform on Change.org. Below is an example of each of these words being used effectively in beginning a petition title.

The most effective first words on Change.org

However, over and over in the data we found that the most popular titling choices on the site only had partial overlap with what turned out to be the most effective titling choices users made. In the case of first words, the ones that performed best on average nearly all seemed to signal the ideas of restoration of rights or coming to the aid of others. While there is some overlap with the most common words (e.g., “Stop” and “Preserve”), words such as “Grant,” “Preserve,” “Approve,” and “Help,” were less frequent but highly effective.

As the examples below illustrate, the most effective words mostly seem to be used in helping those in need, whether they be workers with disabilities, athletes exercising a right to free speech, individuals and families coping with cancer, or ordinary citizens seeking the right to protest.

In the U.S., there is a preference for words signaling resistance and opposition

We also discovered several interesting differences between countries. In the United States, more aggressive terms like “Justice” and “Oppose” correlated with the highest median petition supporters, whereas “Save” was the most effective first word in Canada, Australia, and the UK. In the UK, both softer (“Provide”) and harsher (“Demand”) words did well, and it was also the only country in which “Reverse” appeared in the top 5 (perhaps owing somewhat to the controversial Brexit vote).

Takeaway: Choose first words that get attention and convey action

Of course, just starting a petition with a certain word doesn’t necessarily lead to success on its own. Still, thinking critically about something as seemingly trivial as the very first word of a petition is crucial for activists hoping to stand out and win people to their causes. We found that action words, particularly those that expressed support for others, did exceedingly well on average, as did words with more negative connotations that quickly demonstrated discontent with the status quo. Ultimately, this will be a personal choice and one that can be informed by looking at past successful petitions, but the insights shown here are meant to help you in taking the first step toward creating a powerful petition. If you feel ready to begin the journey of crafting your powerful petition, you can start a petition on the platform here.


Longer titles with crucial details outperform short statements

The adage for nearly all titles on the web is to be brief—assume your reader is busy and has a short attention span that must be captured immediately. It’s good advice, and it is clearly followed by the majority of petition creators on Change.org.

Looking only at the raw data, one would conclude that short titles simply perform the best; it’s certainly true that most of the petitions that do well on Change.org have shorter titles. However, it’s equally true that most of the petitions that don’t do well on Change.org have short titles. Basically, most petitions on Change.org just have shorter titles, but a deeper dive into the data reveals that slightly longer ones, though less common, actually perform better on average.

This contradiction runs counter to conventional wisdom and begs the question: Which one is better? It turns out the answer is, “It depends.” Short and long titles are both effective when they’re good, but the definition of “good” changes with title length. As we’ll explore below, short titles are punchy and address a decision-maker (the target of a petition) head-on, whereas the best long titles manage to tell a compelling story using a single sentence.

Short Titles Quickly Ask for Direct Action

Some petitions with clear, direct goals only need a few words to get the entire point across. On the low end of the title-word-count spectrum, petition creators make clear statements (many beginning with the words listed above) that directly target public leaders or large organizations.

Nearly all of these titles begin with an action verb, and the ones that don’t all have other immediately identifiable nouns that evoke the interest of the reader. For example, the petition Nipsey Hussle Square launched almost immediately after the murder of the rapper and community activist, succeeding in less than two weeks.

Adding a key detail can boost performance

In medium-length titles (7-10 words), we see the same basic structure as short titles—a strong action word to start and naming a key target for the petition—but there is often a single additional detail that skillfully adds a world of context to the line.

Oftentimes, these come in the form of prepositional phrases that are highly evocative to a potential supporter—they address domestic animals “in extreme cold,” contrast the grandeur of the rainforest with “cheap palm oil,” or use personification of the entire planet, describing Earth as it “chokes on plastic.” By adding a highly descriptive detail, these titles deliver dynamic micro-stories designed to inspire both interest and action in a reader who may just be casually scrolling a page.

Long titles are rare, but do the best on average

Longer titles are much less common on Change.org, but as we have seen above, they are actually associated with somewhat better median outcomes in terms of signatures from supporters. These titles go beyond a fast pitch and single detail, sometimes delivering an entire narrative in one sentence; they include descriptive tidbits and flourishes that paint a fuller picture to a potential petition supporter while still staying brief enough to hold a reader’s attention.

Longer titles lead off petitions that are seeking change for many of the same causes, but many of them include key details that may have been omitted if the author had followed a strict “Nothing over 10 words” policy. Details around protecting animals from extreme temperatures or additional context to crimes paint striking portraits of a situation, challenging the reader to learn more about the topic.

Choose the right title length to tell your story

While there is no single correct answer to how long a title should be, petition starters should be confident that anything in the range of 3-15 words has performed well on Change.org, and it should be less about length and more about story. In general, if you can’t paint the complete picture in just a few words, adding a key detail to communicate the urgency of a petition seems to have helped many of these campaigns earn additional viewers and eventual supporters.

Ready to write the headline that moves your readers to action? You can start a petition here.


Petitions are commonly addressed to powerful individuals or large organizations

The main goal of civic activism is to inspire others to take action. This includes both the supporters who sign your petition and the individuals or organizations with the actual decision-making power to follow through. A petition, like any story, needs characters, and often a central character of a Change.org petition is the person or organization the petition seeks to influence.

By far, the most common types of decision makers addressed on Change.org were either major political figures or private or public institutions. In fact, between January 2018 and May 2019, 7 of the 10 most-addressed decision-makers were organizations, with the other three being leaders in government.

Looking across countries, we find that citizens overwhelmingly look to political leaders when addressing their petitions. Only one individual—President Donald J. Trump—appears in lists of the top 10 individuals petitioned in each of the four studied countries, perhaps not surprising given his status as the most polarizing U.S. President on record. Only one other person, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, appeared on more than one list (he appeared on all except Australia). Again, this is perhaps not surprising given that the studied time period coincided with a period of unprecedented controversy for a company with over 2.4 billion monthly active users. Interestingly, the United States was the only country in the study whose top 10 list consisted exclusively of its own citizens.

Below is a closer look at the top United States petition-getter, President Donald J. Trump. President Trump was the subject of the most-signed petition in the history of the platform in 2016, and he received thousands of petitions from U.S. activists from January 2018 to May 2019.

A slew of politicians were similarly petitioned in the United Kingdom and Australia in a trend only broken by Mr. Zuckerberg and petitions in Australia directed toward Elon Musk. Theresa May, who announced her resignation as UK Prime Minister in May of 2019, received hundreds of petitions from Britons during the studied period. While heads of state topped the lists in all four countries, Ms. May was the recipient of the most-signed petition among the group, a one-million-signatures-plus call for a second EU Referendum vote.

While Ms. May’s most visible petition dealt with Brexit, it was hardly the only cause that activists took up with the Prime Minister’s office. Below are the 10 most signed petitions directed at Theresa May since 2018, with advocates for women’s rights, access to healthcare, and stricter reforms on topics ranging from hate crimes to cell phone use while driving all crafting highly successful petitions aimed at influencing the Prime Minister.

Petitions addressing large companies frequently gain traction

Change.org creators are passionate about effecting changes at many of the world’s largest corporations, with a particular focus on government, media/entertainment, and animal rights. Examining the petition targets most frequently addressed on the site, this becomes even clearer:

Companies at the intersection of media and technology such as Netflix, Facebook, the Walt Disney company, and YouTube all placed in the top 10 globally. A high volume of American petitions aimed at the National Football League (from a highly visible petition for “Sweet Victory” to be played at the Super Bowl Halftime Show to advocate for a fair living wage for cheerleaders) made it the world’s most petitioned sports league.

There was also a large trend in advocacy directed at video game developers, with petitions to Nintendo, Epic Games, and Ubisoft being among the most frequent on the site. Trends across the Change.org platform show that some of its most passionate activism relates to animal rights, and this was apparent in the large number of petitions directed to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as well as fast food providers, who are frequently petitioned on issues related to sustainable food production and animal welfare.

Best practices for choosing a target for your petition

Oftentimes, petition starters wonder whether its better to address an organization itself or instead target specific individuals with prominent roles there, and we found evidence of effective petitions that do both. There are dozens of examples of viral, highly successful petitions that address either specific people or organizations as a whole, and some of the best petitions find a specific person within an organization responsible for decision-making (e.g., a VP of Product for a petition to a technology company requesting a feature change or a politician within a political body rather than the entire body itself).

Direct addresses to individuals do have a better chance of being seen by the actual decision maker, but in many cases using an organization’s name in the title will be a stronger method for quickly attracting petition views and support. It’s likely that a blended approach works best here; in other words, addressing a petition to an individual with true decision making power while also mentioning their organization in order to maximize search visibility and engagement with potential supporters.

Address a decision maker with the power to catalyze the change you hope to see by starting a petition here.


Specific keywords related to geography draw in like-minded supporters

For people who make a living figuring out how to make something stand out on the internet, few concepts are as important as keywords. There are endless resources out there for professionals wanting to learn how to make a webpage “rank,” meaning it will show up prominently on Google or other search engines, and many of the same concepts can be applied to crafting a Change.org petition title.

Since we’ve seen that strong first words, title lengths, and naming prominent organizations all appear to matter, it’s important to also consider other general principles that make for a well-written, engaging title. We explored this topic using named entity recognition (NER), a powerful (though imperfect) method of automatically detecting different categories of keywords in text.

For these analyses, we chose to focus on measuring median signatures for petitions with titles that contained different types of entities. We primarily used a modified library from spaCy and restricted our analyses to eight categories (more are available, but they were so rare in Change.org titles that they were excluded from analyses). The results are below, and to ensure they were accurate we also tested with a second model that tags words more generally. Because each model tags somewhat differently, the numbers do not align perfectly, but the same trend is apparent.

Strong evidence for the effectiveness of local petitions

These were among the most surprising results of our analyses. Extremely viral petitions on Change.org tend to be about national or international topics, often addressing major corporations or entire branches of government. If you were analyzing only the most signed petitions on the site, the takeaway would be to simply replicate that method—aim as high as you can. However, Change.org isn’t just about global issues; it’s a platform for anyone to agitate for change, and this came through clearly in our NER analyses.

The top category— specific local facilities—typically corresponded with petitions seeking change at the state, county, city, or town level. These petitions may not jump to the top of Change.org’s all-time supporter rankings, but for the area they’re covering, their performance is substantial. For example, here is how NER tagged top petitions containing a ‘Specific local facility’ tag:

As you can see, these signature totals seem tiny compared to ones elsewhere in this article. However, the specific local facility tag is rare and is only triggered when a title contains a very specific reference. On the whole, titles like this perform better on average than almost all others on the platform. Local petition starters make up a major part of the Change.org community (at least 1/4 of all petitions are around local issues), and our evidence demonstrates the efficacy of the great work being done by local starters. Starting a petition is a highly-effective way to seek change at the local level, and we hope that the insights here help empower readers to do so.

Geographic keywords help others find and support your cause

Equally impressive is how well titles with “Known places” do. Essentially, this category can be thought of as more recognizable places like cities, states, and countries that are easily named. Here are ten examples of these titles on Change.org.

Again, the median signatures for titles containing this kind of entity were far higher than those containing just the names of people or organizations, again indicating that calling out specific places in a title is just as important as naming individuals or organizations.

How to choose keywords for your title

As we’ve seen before, looking only at top petitions versus the overall picture of petitions on the platform looks slightly different and speaks to different goals—hyper-viral petitions will probably always center on people or organizations with national or international standing, so it should be no surprise that these types of entities appear frequently in titles.

However, broad views like this should be considered alongside the somewhat rarer occurrences of local place names that frequently overperform. What we see in petitions across the platform is that the profile of ‘best on average’ looks different than the characteristics of high-performing, extreme outliers. Once again, the best choice for individual petitions comes down to the scope of your goals—if you’re seeking change on the city or state level, mention the city or state. If your goal is broader, such as affecting national or international policies, then targeting specific organizations or leaders is likely to yield better results. Ultimately, best practices will shift according to your goals and the change you’re seeking to create. In any case, no decision maker can hear you without a petition first existing, so if you’re ready to begin, you canstart a petition here.


#Hashtag #Victory

Finally, one last interesting piece of information from this research came from looking at the use of hashtags in titles. Change.org doesn’t support searching by hashtags like on Twitter or Instagram, yet for the petition titles that did use them, there was a marked increase in performance.

Why is this, if hashtags serve no practical purpose on the Change.org platform?

Essentially, petitions that use hashtags effectively in their titles tend to be part of larger movements. Hashtags in a Change.org title, though not functional for search, provide a common identity with a movement when it is being broadcast across other social platforms and give a petition a kind of brand unity that would be instantly recognizable to supporters. They also serve the secondary purpose of giving supporters a ready-made hashtag for their own promotion of the petition or the cause.

How to think about hashtags

Hashtags are by no means a requirement for petition titles, and their inclusion certainly doesn’t guarantee more signatures or support. Rather, existing movements using a hashtag on other platforms should consider including it in titles simply because it’s easy to identify, and petition starters who intend to promote their campaigns on social media may want to include a custom hashtag in their petition title that they can use later on other platforms. It’s likely that much of the success seen above is driven more by the fact that support communities around these causes already existed and petitions served to amplify it, but it nonetheless should merit consideration for any new petition starter on Change.org. We also provide guidance on how to share your petition on social media after it is created.


Petitions and activism are just as much art as science

I am deeply dissatisfied—about so many things, about injustice, about the way the world works—and in some ways, my dissatisfaction drives my storytelling.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  

Language can be parsed and studied by academics or by algorithms, and it can be pulled apart, dissected, and analyzed with respect to its structure, its tone, its position, or its voice. Still, the language of protest—the language of change—will always be equal parts art and science. People come to Change.org because they are dissatisfied—perhaps with their communities, or an organization, or even the world—but they come to this platform to stake a claim to doing something about it.

There are many recommendations on how to capture the hearts, eyes, and imaginations of potential supporters with an attention-grabbing petition title, but no title is perfect. The petitions that succeed on Change.org do so because they’re made by passionate people, those with the audacity to believe that the seemingly small act of starting an online petition can free the unjustly imprisoned, drive meaningful steps toward economic gender equality, or create a permanent means of support for heroes.

In crafting the title to your petition, remember that all of this advice is meant to inspire thought, confidence, and action in you, to help you take your passion for making a difference from something deeply held into something that is out in the open and shared with a community. By taking the time to create a petition title that speaks to the empathy, kindness, and sense of justice in your readers, you ensure you’re doing a service to your cause and hopefully playing a major role in creating the change you hope for.

Ready to start a petition on Change.org?


Nick Allardice is the Chief Product Officer at Change.org. Twitter, LinkedIn.

Methodology Notes

All petitions included in this analysis were originally posted on Change.org between January 1, 2018 and May 31, 2019. All petitions originated from users registered in the United States, Canada, Australia, or the United Kingdom. In order to simplify the data and ensure quality, only petitions with more than 5 signatures were included. This represented 98,481 petitions in the United States, 35,813 in the United Kingdom, 11,232 in Australia, and 8,225 in Canada. Exploratory data analysis was completed using Python v3.7.1 and several of its core libraries, and all natural language processing work was done with spaCy, Flair, Gensim, and Natural Language Toolkit. Fifteen word categories from the General Inquirer were also tested and 5 were used in the final report: Positive, Strong, Power, Virtue, and Active. Most of the original visual layouts were designed in Tableau 2019.2.