A few of the eight member startup team at Public Good. They are based in the Lyric Opera House in the Loop. Photo courtesy of Public Good.

By Kiersten Tomson

As we head into 2017 it seems, now even even more than ever, that the news is plagued with sorrow.

We see the pain and suffering in the images out of Aleppo, Syria.

We feel the shock and dismay after hearing 11 people lost their lives to gun violence in Chicago over Christmas.

People were (and still are) in a deep mourning over the late-2016 deaths of singer George Michael and actress Carrie Fisher.

In conclusion, a lot of Americans share this opinion….

2016: Not great!

So, let’s do something to change it.

A start-up in Chicago, Public Good, is empowering people to take action the moment they read something negative, instantly turning it into a positive. It’s pretty simple – read a story, take a moment to feel all the feelings, and then click the Public Good’s “Take Action” plug-in to make a difference.

It instantly connects with you nonprofits working on that exact issue.

“It could be about a shooting or the Zika outbreak or even an instance of animal cruelty,” explains Public Good’s President and co-founder Melissa Anderson. “And rather than the reader feeling sad, mad, frustrated they can actually click a ‘take action’ button within the article.”

You may have already used or have at least seen the Take Action button on news sites like the Chicago Tribune, CNN, and Upworthy – just to name a few.

“We certainly are seeing increased interest from publishers to bring Take Action on board to get their readers involved,” says Anderson. “The value publishers see is engagement. It’s allowing their readers to turn bad news into something they can feel good about it.”

Public Good started in 2013 and has 1.1 million charity partners on its platform – all registered, 501c3 organizations in good standing in the U.S.

President and co-founder Melissa Anderson. She and the other founders of Public Good helped launch other huge online marketplace sites likes SitterCity, Groupon and Orbitz. Photo courtesy of Public Good.

President and co-founder Melissa Anderson. She and the other founders of Public Good helped launch other huge online marketplace sites likes SitterCity, Groupon and Orbitz. Photo courtesy of Public Good.

And this match-making technology – how the plug-in actually connects you with the proper non-profit based on the news story – is pretty game-changing in its own right.

“What’s most innovative about the plug in is we use artificial intelligence and machine learning to automatically read the article and understand the issues that are involved with the story and then match the reader to nonprofits in their area that are working on those causes,” explains Anderson.

Plus, while we all want to do something to help, you can engage on different levels. Once clicking on the Take Action button, you can show your support, volunteer your time, or donate to the cause.

“You’re busy. It’s quick. You care, you want to do something. You can just donate to this cause or you can really dig in,” says Anderson. “It is part of what we call the ‘ladder of engagement,’ — which is when people get more engaged with what they care about and it ultimately leads to more people making a difference.”

The ladder of engagement has been in full effect these past few months. Since the election, there’s been a push for more community involvement and those numbers are being proven at Public Good.

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“In November 2016, over 7 million readers in America experienced Take Action and we see this number increasing 50% month over month, so it is really sort of exploding,” says Anderson.

Plus, as the dynamic in this country shifts, so do the causes that matter the most us.

On Giving Tuesday this year, a Public Good survey revealed a major increase in support for civil rights organizations – like Injustice Watch. In 2015, no groups in that category even scratched the surface as top recipients.

“I think since we founded Public Good, we’ve felt that this is a really helpful, needed part of the world but it certainly feels like after 2016, given all the things happening around us, that this is just a really critical time to have a platform where people can stand behind the causes they care about and take action to change,” explains Anderson.

In addition to saving the world one click at a time, Public Good is already working on new things for 2017.

The company plans on increasing more publishers, adding more platforms and even evolving how the Take Action button appears.

Small steps toward making Public Good’s mission part of our everyday lives.

“Our goal is to help people take action in that moment that they are inspired and to make giving and making difference easy. It should be as easy to engage with the causes that you care about, as it is to order a product off Amazon.”

We agree, Public Good.