Charity: Water – A Totally 100% 3D Approach To Fundraising!


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Charity WaterCrowded markets, increasing and intensifying competition, reduction in trust and customer loyalty, squeezes on budgets and resources – The world of charity is a crowded one! There are so, so many ‘good causes’ that are desperate for our attention, our support and of course, our money. It’s an incredibly competitive world and the challenge facing many charities, just like other businesses, is standing out from the crowd and differentiating themselves from all those other very worthwhile causes.

How can they do it? Well, they could do much worse than learning some lessons from this Dramatically and Demonstrably Different charity – it’s called Charity:Water. In fact, I would not limit the learning to charities – ANYONE in business could learn lots from these guys.

First of all, the charity, which was set up by Founder, Scott Harrison in 2006, brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Since its founding, Charity:Water has established 25 local partnerships, raised over $100 million that has funded almost 8,000 projects in 20 countries and provided roughly 1.8 million people with clean water. Their goal is to bring clean water to 100 million people by 2020.

This is what they do…

An integral part of their Dramatic Difference is the fact that 100% of the donations they raise goes direct to fund clean water projects! Yes, 100%!!!!! They even reimburse credit card charges for those who donate online! How? They raise the money to run the charity through private donations, foundations and sponsorship! Now, THAT’s Dramatically Different!

So, as well having a 3D business model, they do lots of other innovative things that make them stand out!

Story Telling!

Charity: Water are great at bringing their work to life and use lots of great images and videos to highlight what they do and how they do it. They make things ‘real’ and provide great pictorial evidence and examples of the impact that donors are having. they create things that people WANT to watch! Interestingly, Scott’s own personal story is an intriguing one – his transformation from a ‘hell-raising’ New York night club owner to a forward thinking charity founder is well worth a listen (see below)

Maximising Technology!

As well as being innovative in using technology in their marketing and communication, a great example of their approach is their collaboration with Google Maps which allows you to see where all the projects are taking place, and the video connections gets you even closer – Interestingly, they got a $5 Million donation from Google for this!

‘Personalising’ the Experience!

Donors can actually see where their donations are going and the impact that they are having. By providing the people they are helping and supporting with video cameras, you can actually see where your money is going by seeing specific projects that are underway and have been completed. By creating ‘direct’ contact and tangible evidence, they create real connections.

Engaging Their ‘Customers’

An innovative approach to engaging fundraisers is The Birthday initiative where rather than receive presents, you ask family and friends to donate money equivalent to your birthday age to the charity. Again, it’s simple to do and is a great way of spreading the word – people post and share their campaigns. Over $9 million has been raised so far by this fun and unique approach – the average birthday pledge campaign raises $770 and as Charity: Water point out, this helps an average of 38 people each time! You can see a great example of this below…

Demonstrating Their Impact!

You may have noticed that I have illustrated the Charity: Water story with quite a few facts and figures – because that’s what they do! They are great at providing meaningful information that tells their story and ‘Demonstrates’ the ‘Dramatic Difference’ they are making. They paint pictures with the numbers and show you what your money is doing!

I mentioned Scott’s story – if you want to hear his inspirational presentation at Stanford University, you can listen here – it’s well, well worth a listen…

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Andy Hanselman
Hi there! I help businesses and their people create competitive advantage by 'Thinking in 3D'! That means being 'Dramatically and Demonstrably Different'! I research, speak about, write about and work with businesses to help them maximise their sales and marketing, their customer service and their customer relationships.


  1. Wait, what? “100% of the donations they raise goes direct to fund clean water projects … They raise the money to run the charity through private donations, foundations and sponsorship!” Two sentences which directly contradict each other.

    “Private donations, foundations and sponsorship” are still donations. It’s ludicrous to suggest otherwise. And there’s nothing either innovative (others have done it before) or helpful in perpetuating the myth that it’s desirable for a charity to reduce its overheads to zero.

  2. Simon

    What the Charity:water guys do is ensure that those who donate directly to their projects know that 100% of their donation will reach that project – that’s the key. Of course they have running costs and my understanding is that these are funded separately as mentioned above. I’m not aware that they are focused on reducing overheads to zero – in fact, from what I see, they look more to maximise the resources they have rather than reduce them – and I can’t see a problem with that!



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