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Daily Xtra’s Social Sponsorship program takes shape

Connecting community causes with resources to support them

True to our activist roots, Daily Xtra enters a new phase of empowering the communities we serve, with our new Social Sponsorship program, now in its pilot phase in Toronto. Credit: Daily Xtra

Daily Xtra is moving forward with its pilot project to empower community groups through Social Sponsorship, fine-tuning the program it launched this fall in Toronto, with plans to expand it to Vancouver and Ottawa in 2016.

Ken Hickling, Daily Xtra’s director of client services who doubles as director of the Social Sponsorship Program, says the idea is to help not-for-profit causes by connecting organizers with the people who have the skill sets they need, whether that is in-house at Xtra or through online matchmaking.

Leveraging Daily Xtra’s existing relationships with businesses to support non-profit organizations is also a key part of the program.

Sponsorship, in the form of ad space or, more recently, “native content” — promotional stories — has been around as long as the publication has existed, Hickling says. In recent years, that has amounted to the in-kind equivalent of $100,000 annually in both Toronto and Vancouver.

The Social Sponsorship Program differs in that it takes the expertise Daily Xtra and its parent organization, Pink Triangle Press, have developed over four decades and shares it with the community. It also hopes to someday create an online meeting place where causes that need help can find volunteers who share their vision.

“It’s really going that extra step,” Hickling says. “We know how difficult it is sometimes to even find a meeting space to bring people together . . . so we can provide one of our meeting spaces.”

Connecting causes with graphic designers, printers, funding sources and experienced campaigners goes beyond the traditional reporting responsibilities of a newspaper. But Hickling says changing times — including Xtra’s decision to go to an all-digital platform — means finding new ways of interacting with and building community.

“We’ve won a lot of battles, we’ve taken a lot of strides as a community, but it’s not finished,” he says. “We need to remind ourselves that we still need to be activists and we still need to strive for making change.”

“Part of our mission is to make the world a better place for everyone,” he notes. “In what we do as a community, we improve the world for everyone and that’s not done yet.”

Ken Popert, executive director of Pink Triangle Press, says directly supporting community causes may be uncommon in traditional media, but it makes perfect sense for Daily Xtra.

“We’ve never been a traditional media outlet,” he says. “We’ve always seen ourselves first and foremost as a political and activist organization. Our mission statement says that we are in the world to cause certain kinds of political activism to happen and to support it, so it’s not a big leap for us.”

Until now, that mission has been met primarily through print media. The Social Sponsorship Program represents an added dimension that supplements the now fully digital Daily Xtra media format.

The program has already had a soft launch, Popert says, with outreach to organizations and initial meetings where groups discuss their activities and needs.

Put simply, Popert says, the Social Sponsorship Program intends “to bring together groups of people on a temporary basis to pursue a cause . . . We want to serve as a catalyst in that way, in the community, to bring together groups of people.”