“The idea was to build every possible tool for nonprofits, social fundraising, skills based volunteerism, a blog network…really big, unobtainable objectives,” said Ben Rattray who, at 22-years-old, founded Change.org. “We failed.”
Rather than giving up, he pivoted. Instead of attempting to provide every technological service to anyone trying to make an impact, the business narrowed its focus, developing on online platform for concerned citizens to start petitions. And he started to see real changes.
Bank of America dropped its $5 debit card fee after more than 300,000 people signed a petition started by a 22-year-old Molly Katchpole. The Sanford neighborhood watchman who allegedly shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was arrested and charged after his parents gathered more than 2 million signatures. South Africa convened a task force to address rapes meant to turn lesbians straight after citizens organized to protest and collected 171,000 signatures.
Ok, I’ll admit it. Of all the charitable causes I could give money to, supporting a philanthropy that involves dogs walking a catwalk first seemed a little silly. There’s poverty and homelessness, domestic violence, educational gaps, hunger problems, all under our noses just here in Washington, DC alone. I haven’t even mentioned hard-hitting catastrophes like the ones that have devastated Japan, Haiti or New Orleans.
But then I had a conversation with @robotchampion that changed my mind. He rescued a dog from a shelter that most likely had been abused or at the very least, neglected. People who meet Jesse fall in love instantly. She’s one of the sweetest, most loving, well-mannered and fiercely dedicated and protective dogs I’ve met. Jesse has been one of Steve’s most trusted and loyal companions for most of his adult life – driving cross-country four times with him, protecting him from stray dogs and of-questionable-intent humans when walking alone in the city at night, guarding the homestead when he’s been away. Not growing up in a “dog house” I was fairly uneducated on canine matters; what I learned from Steve and what I went on to discover further on my own, is that humans and canines evolved over time together. Our four-legged friends are actually descendants of wolves and this transformation from wild animal to domesticated partner proved revolutionary to man. Dogs became our hunting partners, protectors of our settlements and livestocks, and our own personal mobile alert systems.
It seems we owe a lot to man’s best friend. Which is why I wanted to support the Washington Human Society in their annual benefit, the Fashion for Paws Runway Show. On it’s fifth year, this event proved to be, in a word, spectacular. And a lesson to any non-profit and business. If you build something incredible and novel, they will come. Last night, ~1,700 Washingtonians turned out (and donated ~$500,000) for a truly exquisite experience held at the National Building Museum. The catwalk, lit up like a Lewis Carroll wonderland, was MC’d by Entertainment Tonight’s Lawrence Zarian and the always elegant Pamela Sorensen. With sixty local DC models rocking the runway, the true stars were the dogs. It was miraculous how composed each little (and non-so-little) woofer stayed while marching out into a stadium-like setting with techno-beats blaring in surround-sound and photogs flashing away.
Fashion for Paws is an exemplar, a true purple cow. In a world of competing resources, it’s not enough to simply be a good cause or a good product. You must be remarkable – you must give people something remarkable. Fashion for Paws does just that. In a city where the most fashionable color is beige or black, and dogs are viewed as household companions and not Paris Hilton-style portable accessories, F4P blends the sophistication, style and glamour of New York and LA in one star-studded, stand out event – and all for a great cause. So thank you to the Fashion for Paws organizers, drivers, and supporters for a remarkable experience. It was a pleasure to see the runway go to the dogs.