Dan Ratner and Jason Kunesh want to make positive change in the world. More, they want to revolutionize philanthropy—and their new online donation platform and social network, Public Good, is helping them do it.
Public Good is like a central home base for charities helping nonprofits meet new donors and volunteers, and raise more money and awareness by making online fundraising easy and accessible.
How? By being there when people are motivated to do good. Say you read a moving news story on Facebook but you don’t want to “like” the problem or “share” the negativity. Instead, Public Good’s “Take Action” button will direct you to their website to learn more about organizations working to solve the problem, plus how to donate, volunteer, sign a pledge and more.
Public Good is on a mission to make a positive social impact—and they’re doing it guided by eight principles, all embodied in their company culture:
1. Be measurable. We set clear, measurable goals for anything we do and use these metrics to guide our future.
“You want to make sure whatever you’re working on is really having an impact,” Kunesh says. “When we do anything, whether it’s crafting a feature or any outreach that we’re doing, we always ask ourselves, ‘How do we know if this is successful?’ If you can’t answer it, it’s not really worth not doing.”
Everybody starts out with opinions, and you want to turn those into facts as quickly as you can.
2. Be meaningful. It’s one thing to have a goal, but it’s important to be measuring the things that matter.
Public Good’s goal is for people to action, to get engaged with organizations. “Take an email campaign,” Ratner says. “You’ve got two different emails you’re sending to a group—one that gets people’s attention and they say, ‘Wow, the open rate was huge, that was a great email, we should send more like that.’” But was it effective if people looked it because it was controversial but didn’t actually do anything after they read it? Results matter most—so how many people actually made a contribution?
“The one that was more boring might have been more successful. You’ve got to be measuring the thing you actually care about.”
3. Be helpful. We work to give both people and organizations information and insights.
Instead of thinking of clients as customers, Public Good thinks of them as partners—that their success is Public Good’s success, too.
In the nonprofit world, companies technically have two jobs. “We see somebody who’s an expert at their subject area, whether it’s providing bikes to families in Africa or helping children on the south side of Chicago, or whatever the case,” Kunesh says, “but when it comes to engaging this new generation of donors online, they don’t have those skills and they don’t have time to read up on them.” So that’s where Public Good steps in to help solve both pieces of the puzzle.
4. Be democratic. Everyone at Public Good is responsible for providing a great user experience.
“Good ideas don’t start or end with Dan or myself,” Kunesh says. “It’s our job to make sure the ideas and issues our team hears from our partners are being acted upon.”
Take Public Good’s regular events for nonprofit partners. Planning happy hours is fun, and everybody always has an opinion about the food, the music, the venue—and everybody takes part.
While empowermentis important, Ratner adds that at the end of the day, decisions must be made to keep moving forward—they have to provide leadership. “At some point, it’s like, you know what? It’s just one event and we’ve got a lot of work to do…. We’re going to move on.”
5. Be transparent. We tell users and organizations as much as possible to help them make good decisions.
Clients want to feel like their voice is being heard. As such, Public Good strives to make sure everyone knows what’s going on in the organizations they work with by “fleshing that out so people don’t feel like they’re operating in the dark.”
Pure transparency builds trust. Often times, technology may feel like a scary unknown and “over promised and under delivered,” so Kunesh says they’re transparent with organizations they work with so they understand exactly what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
6. Only do what we can do well. We should provide the best solution and user experience, partnering where it makes sense to do so.
“At a startup you don’t really have a lot of resources,” Kunesh says. “You have to be laser-focused on where you spend them so the impact you have is magnified.”
This means sticking to core competencies: Apple doesn’t manufacture their own devices even though they have financial resources.
“The more you specialize, the more you realize the depth of the problem your customers are facing. And the deeper you’re going, the more you can really provide value. I think tight, laser focus is a differentiator,” notes Ratner.
7. Respect our users. Features are not enough. We need great interfaces that respect people’s time and are a joy to use.
The co-founders emphasize the importance of building a product that’s user-friendly—which is why there aren’t any ads on their site and they don’t sell user data.
When people switch from platforms they’ve been using to Public Good’s software, Ratner says, “they’ve gone from something where they had to attend regular annual training days at other places to teaching themselves our stuff in 15 minutes to accomplish the same work.”
8. Be happy. Giving makes people happy and we want more happy people.
“The more we help people connect with organizations and form lasting relationships with them, the more we believe they’ll be happy,” Kunesh says.
Ratner points out behavioral studies consistently show a recurring theme: “Two things that always make the top of the list of things that make people happy are interconnectedness and giving to others. We try to provide both of those things.”
Tenets of company culture like these, the co-founders say, are extremely beneficial and ultimately keep an organization on track. “At any moment, you can get lost in the fray,” Kunesh says. Principles help drive decisions. “You can say, ‘Is this in line with why we started this?’ and if your answer’s no, that’s a reason to take a moment and reflect on it.”