Forbes – Leadership: CHARITY: WATER PLANS BIG EXPANSION OF BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC





Charity: water has written an amazing story of accomplishment since it sprang from the mind of founder Scott Harrison in 2006: $375 million raised and access to clean water provided to nearly 10 million people since then.

At a recent meeting with brand partners, Harrison traced a history of innovations that has fueled this growth including

  • Adoption of a 100% model under which the group separately fundraises to cover all of its operating expenses so that it can tell supporters that every cent they raise to provide clean water goes to that purpose.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising – especially a focus on supporters directing their networks to make contributions to charity: water in lieu of personal gifts on their birthdays.
  • An early and aggressive embrace of social media as a way of spreading their message and attracting support, e.g. charity: water was the first nonprofit to amass 1 million Twitter followers and is one of the biggest beneficiaries of Facebook fundraising.
  • Pivoting to sustained giving. A few years ago, charity: water leadership realized that their peer-to-peer fundraising was difficult to sustain (few birthday fundraisers repeated their efforts, for example). Starting in 2016, without abandoning P2P, the group put a huge focus on recruiting and retaining sustaining supporters – folks who commit to giving monthly recurring gifts and, in return, receive a wealth of ongoing information on what the group is accomplishing. The Spring, as charity: water calls this group, is now up to 40,000 active subscribers in 110 countries collectively contributing $14 million annually with an average gift per month of $30.

While this and much more innovation was happening on the individual supporter development side of charity: water, partnerships with brands was for many years a relatively quiet part of the charity: water equation.   




This was certainly my impression watching the company/cause strategic alliance landscape as I have from my perch at Engage for Good.   charity: water had some standout corporate initiatives (such as the longstanding Smile Generation program, their Halo Award-winning partnership with PDS Dental Services), but charity: water was not one of those groups that people in the know pointed to as a fountain of outstanding cross-sector activity.

charity: water intends to change that, according to Harrison. The group has the ambitious goal of raising $1 billion to provide clean water access to 25 million more people to 2025.

They expect the 80% of that funding to come from a wide array of types of individual support, but $200 million of that total to come from an expanded array of brand partnerships.


The charity: water team is still drawing the details of the road map of how they will get there, but one could feel the enthusiasm and smarts that they are applying to the task at their recent gathering of brand partners.   

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

Among the concepts shared were having corporate partners make sustaining membership of charity: water a co-branded employee benefit (“a benefit that benefits others”); reaching out through in-store and digital point-of-sale  and other activity to many more consumers to raise awareness and funds; and increasing the portion of corporate partners who direct their funds from supporting clean water access to supporting operations.






Having proven what game-changing moves it was capable when focused on individual supporters, we should all keep a close eye on charity: water team to see what innovations it brings to company/cause alliances.

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Charity: water has written an amazing story of accomplishment since it sprang from the mind of founder Scott Harrison in 2006: $375 million raised and access to clean water provided to nearly 10 million people since then.

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

At a recent meeting with brand partners, Harrison traced a history of innovations that has fueled this growth including

  • Adoption of a 100% model under which the group separately fundraises to cover all of its operating expenses so that it can tell supporters that every cent they raise to provide clean water goes to that purpose.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising – especially a focus on supporters directing their networks to make contributions to charity: water in lieu of personal gifts on their birthdays.
  • An early and aggressive embrace of social media as a way of spreading their message and attracting support, e.g. charity: water was the first nonprofit to amass 1 million Twitter followers and is one of the biggest beneficiaries of Facebook fundraising.
  • Pivoting to sustained giving. A few years ago, charity: water leadership realized that their peer-to-peer fundraising was difficult to sustain (few birthday fundraisers repeated their efforts, for example). Starting in 2016, without abandoning P2P, the group put a huge focus on recruiting and retaining sustaining supporters – folks who commit to giving monthly recurring gifts and, in return, receive a wealth of ongoing information on what the group is accomplishing. The Spring, as charity: water calls this group, is now up to 40,000 active subscribers in 110 countries collectively contributing $14 million annually with an average gift per month of $30.

While this and much more innovation was happening on the individual supporter development side of charity: water, partnerships with brands was for many years a relatively quiet part of the charity: water equation.   

This was certainly my impression watching the company/cause strategic alliance landscape as I have from my perch at Engage for Good.   charity: water had some standout corporate initiatives (such as the longstanding Smile Generation program, their Halo Award-winning partnership with PDS Dental Services), but charity: water was not one of those groups that people in the know pointed to as a fountain of outstanding cross-sector activity.

charity: water intends to change that, according to Harrison. The group has the ambitious goal of raising $1 billion to provide clean water access to 25 million more people to 2025.

They expect the 80% of that funding to come from a wide array of types of individual support, but $200 million of that total to come from an expanded array of brand partnerships.

The charity: water team is still drawing the details of the road map of how they will get there, but one could feel the enthusiasm and smarts that they are applying to the task at their recent gathering of brand partners.   

Among the concepts shared were having corporate partners make sustaining membership of charity: water a co-branded employee benefit (“a benefit that benefits others”); reaching out through in-store and digital point-of-sale  and other activity to many more consumers to raise awareness and funds; and increasing the portion of corporate partners who direct their funds from supporting clean water access to supporting operations.




Having proven what game-changing moves it was capable when focused on individual supporters, we should all keep a close eye on charity: water team to see what innovations it brings to company/cause alliances.




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Source: forbes.com




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