What Can We Learn? Part 3: Charity: water

charity: water Google map

So far in this series, we've examined some of the strategies that non-arts nonprofits are using to engage and promote participation among their constituents, as well as their implications for success in the arts. To wrap up, we'll look at Charity: water, a nonprofit that aims to bring clean and safe drinking water to the 800 million people in developing nations who do not have access to it yet. Charity: water operates with a distinctive funding model: 100 percent of public contributions are used to directly fund mission-based projects, while operating costs are funded by other sources such as foundations and private donors. Like the Nature Conservancy, the subject of Part 1 of this series, Charity: water's website features a personalized, social media-inspired interface for contributors to track their personal impact on the organization's mission. Users can quantitatively monitor the extent of their support in real-time, whether they donate, raise funds from and/or with others through a campaign, or spread awareness through (digital) word of mouth. Participants can organize themselves into groups that can run their own campaigns and set collective donation goals in order to fund specific projects, such as a well installation in a village. One of Charity: water's unique campaign frameworks is The Birthday Project, which encourages people to leverage their birthdays and challenge those they know to donate their age in dollars.

In order to report finished projects, Charity: water uses a Google Maps-powered map to show the exact locations of each completed project with GPS coordinates, completion dates, and the number of people who benefit from the project. To date, there are over 4,000 projects featured on the map across four continents. By literally showing where funds are being used, Charity: water promotes a sense of personal satisfaction in having contributed to a global cause, despite the physical distance between donors and beneficiaries.

Takeaway: Charity: water's website suggests that the organization values transparency and awareness, allowing donors to educate themselves about the organization's efforts and track progress throughout the 18-month time frame that is typical to complete such projects. Currently, we tend to measure success in our fundraising efforts by the total amount raised, but Charity: water demonstrates that there are opportunities to strengthen relationships between organizations and our contributors by also acknowledging their individual impact.