Monday, 7 October 2013

Get Smart[er] with WATTPAD

What’s your story? 

John Steinbeck famously said, “We are lonesome animals.  We spend all of our life trying to be less lonesome.  One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say—and to feel— ‘Yes,  that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it.  You’re not as alone as you thought.’”  Steinbeck was speaking to the power of stories and storytelling to connect one person to another.  A good story can evoke emotion and inspire action.  In Steinbeck’s case, Grapes of Wrath illuminated the plight of the poor in America like none other before.

At Public, we’ve been reflecting on the power of storytelling after a great session with a friend-of-Public Candice Faktor, General Manager of Wattpad and Aron Levitz, Wattpad’s head of business development.  Wattpad is a Toronto-based storytelling and story-sharing platform. 

In no uncertain terms, Wattpad is changing the way people tell and share stories.  Yes, storytelling is an ancient and universal act – but Wattpad is a 21st Century app applied to the form.  And they are going gangbusters.  Wattpad’s numbers are amazing:  upwards of 25,000,000 unique visitors a month, “time-on-app” is over 3 hours per month (compared to 21 minutes per month for Twitter) and their users spend 4.3 billion (with a “B”) minutes per month on the site – 80 percent of which are minutes spent on mobile devices. 

Public’s own experience making storytelling and story sharing the cornerstone of successful public engagement campaigns – including Fearless (Canadian Cancer Society), Draw the Line (Ontario Women’s Directorate, Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, AOcVF) and Call BS (Partners for Mental Health) – makes thinking about the power of Wattpad even more intriguing. 

What we’re thinking about at Public is how we can use this powerful new medium – Wattpad – to create social change and public good in the future.  Like Steinbeck, we understand the power of storytelling and that adding Wattpad’s powerful platform into our work could create incredible change.  We look forward to being part of that.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Are You Ready to Fund a Failure?

A week doesn't go by when there isn't an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy or Non Profit Quarterly about an amazing organization that has received funding from a major philanthropic foundation or philanthropist. The story is usually the same, non profit X has demonstrated incredible success and is being rewarded by foundation Y with a big cheque of support.

There is nothing wrong with such support or announcements, but have you ever wondered where is the article of foundation X or philanthropist Y funding a failure? Even better, when you are thinking about making a charitable donation or investing in a social enterprise have you ever asked yourself whether you are prepared to fund a failure?

Now before you dismiss this question as silly or worse, nonsensical, holding fast to the classical definition of failure as a "lack of success" and "an unsuccessful person, enterprise or thing", think about failure in a different light, namely, a person or organization that is willing to develop and implement a new solution or idea that hasn't been tested before. Failure from this perspective is about taking risks and innovating knowing that despite your best instincts and experience it could fail.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Charity Pin Ups: A Love Hate Relationship

If you have visited a department store, grocery store, or pharmacy chain in the past week you have likely come up against a very nice sales associate asking if you would like to donate a dollar or more to their supporting charity. And if you are like the vast majority of people you probably didn't love it. In fact, let me go one step further. You probably found it annoying. Ok, I said it, charity pin ups are annoying.

Whether you are being asked to give at a Walmart, Toys R Us or Walgreens the ask is basically structured in the same way (add a dollar and put your pin up on the wall). And they are generally premised on the same behavior, namely, guilt. Who wants to be the person in line saying no to a child with autism?

Monday, 10 December 2012

This Holiday Season, How About a Little Fun With Your Giving?

Holidays are the time to reflect, be with loved ones and look out for others. But why do all the messages of your favorite causes and charities have to be so serious?

We asked ourselves this question when developing a holiday fundraising campaign for the David Suzuki Foundation, a charitable organization that does leading environmental work on climate change and species protection worldwide.

Now don't get me wrong. It's not that climate change, or other social causes that I have received e-blasts for this holiday season (poverty reduction, clean water, education for girls in developing countries) is any laughing matter. Far from it. But why must they be so earnest?

Monday, 12 November 2012

Charity Ratings Kill Innovation

This may be blasphemy but I am going to say it. Charity ratings help to kill innovationNow before the charity ratings organizations go crazy and tell me how wrong I am, let me acknowledge a few things.

I am not against charity ratings. They play a valuable role in terms of evaluating efficiency, accountability and transparency. But they seem too focused on expense ratios and not enough on impact. If an organization's program spending relative to their operating spending is 70/30 but has a huge impact on health care or climate change, is that worthy of a lower rating to another organization that has an 85/15 ratio but far less impact? 
But let's leave this argument for another time.

My problem with charity ratings is that by focusing on the relative spend between mission (program) and operating, charities are reluctant (some are even scared) to spend money on innovating the way they engage the public.