I had the pleasure of attending a Charity: Water event last week. Paull Young, the young passionate Aussie who just HAD to work for this organisation when he came across them, presented to a group of about 50 people in Sydney. You may have heard of Charity: Water, especially if you are active on Twitter and other social media. Charity: Water has very successfully trail blazed new ways of fundraising and getting their story out to millions of people globally through the clever use of technology and social media strategies. Whether you are working for a charity or own your own business, there is much to be learnt from how they do things.
How Charity: Water Started
Charity: Water started five years ago when its young founder, Scott Harrison travelled to Africa and saw first hand the terrible plight of so many without the most basic of human needs – water. When he returned to NYC and a friend bought him a $16 martini, he realised that that same $16 could have fed a family in Africa or built a well. He then decided that if more people understood what was needed, the world could be changed. He then founded Charity: Water.
The facts about water
- Out of the seven billion people living on the planet, one billion people do not have access to drinking water. Without seeing and experiencing this, it is hard for the people who do have water (and always have) to imagine what life would be like for these one billion people.
- 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation – toilets, running water, etc
- This is a major cause of preventable disease. 40,000 kids die every day because of lack of access to clean water and sanitation. Not having a “tap and toilet” kills more people than all the wars around the world every year.
- In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year just walking for water. Usually it is women and children walking many kilometres to the nearest water source, and this water will likely make them sick.
- Charity: Water’s motto is “Water Changes Everything”. Simple, yet true. Not only does access to clean water (through taps and toilets) eliminate much disease, but also kids are able to go to school and entire communities can be transformed.
- $19 will fund a well. This is such small amount that will make such a huge difference to people without access to water – the price of a cocktail or two in a major city.
“Technology changes everything”. Charity: Water does almost all of its fundraising online. It’s clever use of social media to raise money has certainly been its strong suit. In February 2009, they raised $250,000 through Twestival. This was the largest amount ever raised by a charity online. Twitter: Charity: Water was first on twitter in 2007 with a few hundred followers (that was like rock-star status in those days), and now they have over 1.3 million followers! Facebook: Over 200,000 likes.
Charity: Water doesn’t ask for money, it asks for fundraisers – people to raise money for them. And they have clever campaigns around this premise. One example is the “Give up your birthday for clean water” campaign. People raise money on their birthday and ask friends and family to make a donation instead of buying them a gift. Genius. We already have more than we need – right? This is all done online and the technology makes it easy to set this up. We are seeing a lot of charities making use of this now, for example “Everyday Hero”, whereby a fundraiser (individual) can set up an online presence to track the donations etc. This is becoming very common particularly for fun runs and other events like “Movember”.
Stats for Charity: Water’s Online Campaigns
Average amount raised by a fundraiser: $1,000 Average campaign: 13 donors, average donation $80. Charity: Water then emails all donors to show where and when the wells went. They send them links to googlemaps which actually shows the locations of the wells. Their model is that for every $1 spent, $8 is raised. That’s leverage.
A Winning Model
Paull Young says the culture of Charity: Water “Feels more like a tech start up than a charity.” They have raised $26 million so far, and 75% was raised through digital models, more than any other charity using these models. They are experiencing 100%+ growth. And they are just warming up. They have a big hairy audacious goal to raise $2 billion by 2020 (yes, $2 BILLION).
Some tips from Charity: Water
- Start with your story and make it their story.
- Show them where there money goes. Charity: Water uses googlemaps with GPS to show exactly where the wells were built.
- Use pictures. Charity: Water posts a “picture a day.” Pictures showing the sheer joy that water can bring to people. Real people. They believe in showing people the impact of their giving. Show by photos and share the stories of the people they impact. Show them where their money goes.
- Use narrative – sharing stories. One African woman named Helen said that now that she has water she feels beautiful, because for the first time in her life she can wash herself. Now THAT is powerful story sharing.
- Demonstrate the impact to the donor. Because you donated $30, this well (picture) was built in this location (googlemaps). Helen’s family (picture of Helen’s family) now has access to running water.
We are lucky enough to live in an age where our message can be reached by millions (and potentially billions) of people. Before the ubiquitous use of technology, mobile phones etc this simply was not possible without spending ungodly amounts of money. Today anyone can do this by utilising technology. The key is to have a compelling message that truly speaks to people around the world. Charity: Water has done this well so far in their short life. And I would bet that with passionate people like Paull Young involved they will get their big hairy audacious goal of raising $2 billion by 2020 and then some.