ChangeSprout Inc. was incorporated as a New York State benefit corporation in May 2013. In 2014, our first full year, we saw significant growth in our staff, the customers using our product, and the geographic reach of our impact. Last year we also released our second product, TakeCharge. While TakeCharge integrates with our existing petitions platform, it is also a stand-alone donation tool that can help small and large organizations fundraise more effectively.
This annual report not only provides a space for us to internally think about the progress we’ve made in the last year, but also allows us to outline our impact publicly. We’ve made some significant gains in the last year, and hope to increase our positive impact in the coming months.
GENERAL PUBLIC BENEFIT
Selecting a Third Party Standard: ChangeSprout decided to use B Labs “B Impact Assessment” to evaluate our impact. We chose to use B Labs because of their history of leadership within the benefit corporation community and the assessment’s ease of use. Additionally, because we used their evaluation in our previous annual report, we’re able to easily compare this year’s assessment to our previous performance. Finally, the “Best Practices” notes included throughout the assessment are useful when formulating our goals for the coming year.
Pursuit of the General Public Benefit and the Extent the General Public Benefit was Created: New York State Business Corporation Law defines general public benefit as “a material positive impact on society and the environment.” We aim to provide this positive impact through the production of well-engineered software products that empower regular people to fight for positive change in their communities.
General Public Benefit:
ChangeSprout’s contribution to the general public benefit is twofold. On the one hand, we believe that our emphasis on transforming the way progressive advocacy organizations interact with their supporters — by increasing member participation and allowing members to become the advocates for the causes they support — makes the organizations and movements we work with stronger and more effective. The more tangible impact of our work is best captured by a sampling of the campaigns that our software has powered.
On start2.occupyourhomes.org, people in danger of foreclosure have, with the support of friends, family, and strangers, successfully petitioned their mortgage lenders to allow them to stay in their homes. Those who have run successful petitions include Jacqueline, a retired police detective who has been fighting bone marrow cancer; Latonia, a single mother with eight children living in Atlanta; and Dr. Marilyn Peterson who runs Parkwood Farms, a therapeutic riding center for children and adults with disabilities.
On coworker.org, workers at the Metropolitan Opera created a campaign pressuring management to avoid a lockout and engage in good-faith negotiations with Met Opera employees. After more than 12,000 people added their names in support of the Met Opera, management and employees were able to reach a compromise allowing the season to begin as scheduled.
On credomobilize.com, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon created a petition to end discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. After a four-month campaign that received more than 100,000 signatures, it was announced that President Obama had signed an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Our tools have also helped to empower people outside of the United States. In the United Kingdom, 11-year-old Elysce was able to use you.38degrees.org.uk to launch and run a successful petition preventing the closure of her local Liverpool library.
In Australia, more than 25,000 people signed a petition calling for an inquiry into the long-term health impact of the Hazelwood Mine Fire. After delivery of the petition, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer announced a 10-year health study for Morwell residents.
The campaigns started and run using our tools fall into every category. However, we work with a number of organizations whose missions are to advocate for environmental causes. In India, Greenpeace supporters have created petitions to clean up the Himalayas and preserve forests. In South America, users of Hagamoseco.org are campaigning to protect Cerro del León and to plant 10,000 trees in Tandil and Sierras de Córdoba.
Around the world, supporters of the Go Fossil Free campaign have collected more than 150,000 signatures, on over 1,000 petitions, calling for their local colleges, cities, and churches to divest from fossil fuels.
The campaigns highlighted here include some of the larger campaigns that have been started and won using our toolset. However, there are also many local petitions, where people have successfully campaigned their school board to prevent the closure of their local school, or petitioned their city council to install pedestrian crossings, or pressured their mayor to clean up pollution in the city park.
Whether the campaigns created using our toolset are large or small, whether they are successful or not, we believe that providing a space where regular people are empowered to change the world around them, and where they can see the power of being active in their pursuit of positive change, has a great social benefit for us all.
Pursuit of the Specific Benefit Named in the Certificate of Incorporation: At the time of ChangeSprout’s incorporation, the company chose to pursue a general public benefit.
The results of ChangeSprout’s B Lab assessment, compared to last year’s assessment, are included below.
|Category||Total Points Earned||Percent Earned||Total Points Earned||Percent Earned|
DISCUSSION AND PLANS FOR IMPROVEMENT
In the last year, our governance scores have doubled. Following our first assessment, conducted in 2013, we implemented some of the changes suggested by B Labs. Firstly, we finalized our written mission statement, which includes a commitment to social impact. We’ve also increased transparency regarding our financial information by sharing monthly financial reports, which include all revenue and outlays, with all staff. However, despite increasing our transparency and governance scores, we can obviously do better. In the next year, we hope to identify key performance indicators (outside of the B Lab assessment) that we can use to track our progress and ensure that we are meeting our social and environmental objectives throughout the year. Additionally, to further ensure our accountability, we’ll explore mechanisms for soliciting feedback from our customers regarding our social and environmental performance.
Our assessment scores for the workers category declined somewhat over the last year. We believe that part of this reduction is because our staff has grown and therefore the majority of our employees have been working with us for less than 12 months. Increasing our worker score should happen naturally next year, assuming that our staff remains the same. Additionally, we will establish a formal process for providing feedback to employees. This change will hopefully increase communication and help our staff feel more secure in the work they are doing, while also marginally increasing our score in the worker category. However, we expect that our score in this category will remain similar in the coming years, as more than a quarter of the possible points in this section come from policies regarding hourly employees, which we don’t have and don’t foresee adding in the future.
We also increased our community impact in the last year. However, as a distributed team that is spread across the Western Hemisphere, we are somewhat limited in the impact that we can have on a specific community. The majority of the increase in our community score is due to growing our workforce by more than 100 percent.
After our 2013 annual assessment we discussed adding a policy allotting paid time off for employees’ volunteer service and employer matching for charitable gifts. This is particularly attractive to ChangeSprout because it will allow our diversely located employees to create change within their local communities. Unfortunately, we were unable to provide for these types of civic engagement; however, we’ll continue to explore these options in the coming year. Now that we’ve begun using independent contractors, we’ll also work to expand our communication channels with these individuals, including soliciting feedback from contractors following the completion of their projects.
The Consumers Business Model category is new to our B Lab’s Impact Assessment and the percentage of points earned is not included in the final report. However, this is the one category where we far exceeded the average for other B Corps (24.6 compared to 18).
This is certainly the area where we have the most room for improvement. Our low score is partially the consequence of a distributed team that does not monitor or track our energy and water usage. Additionally, because we’re headquartered in a shared coworking space, we’re unable to set certain environmentally-friendly policies. However, we recognize that we could do more to encourage recycling, chemical reduction, and the use of sustainable materials within the office space. We do, however, buy renewable energy credits to offset the impact of our travel and the ongoing energy usage by our infrastructure.
In all, we have made improvements over the last year, but we still have work to do before being satisfied with our impact. We hope that the coming year will prove to be one in which we meet our internal goals and increase the positive impact we have locally and globally.
COMPENSATION OF DIRECTORS
Nathan Woodhull is the sole director of ChangeSprout. His full-time position has an annual salary of $85,000.
Nathan Woodhull, founder of ChangeSprout Inc., is the only shareholder.