Charity: Water Leading The Way In Social Media For Nonprofits

We have examined all of the ways to use social media successfully and here is an example of one organization that has blown social media out of the water (no pun intended). Charity: Water, a nonprofit organization that provides safe drinking water to people in developing nations (Charity: Water, n.d.) was founded in 2006 and by 2014 had already raised over $155 million (Charity: Water, n.d.). That is $4,103 every HOUR and over 60% of these donations came from online fundraising alone (Chaudhary, 2014). Believe it or not, Charity:Water uses $0 on marketing; obviously they are doing something right (Charity: Water, n.d.). Lets take a look and see what we can learn from Charity:Water.

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Charity:Water’s online success is based off of three core pillars(Fankauser, 2013):

1. Inspire people

2. Create a platform for them to make a huge impact

3. Provide reporting so that people can see their impact

Charity:Water does an incredible job at inspiring people through content. Their social media profiles are rich with inspiring stories and pictures; and it shows. They are the most followed charity on twitter and were one of the first 20 brands to use Instagram (Fankhauser, 2013). This goes to show that taking risks with technology pays off and that people respond to an active online presence.

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Charity: Water has provided a platform that allows people to form an incredible bond with their brand through http://my.charitywater.org/. This is a website that gives people the power to create their own fundraising campaign for anything from marathons to birthdays with 100% of the money raised going to clean water. This type of engagement gives people a connection with with the organization where they feel as though they are truly a valued part. This also makes things a lot easier on Charity: Water. When someone creates a mycharity: water campaign, they share that campaign on social media and then the  organization then gets a major boost in money and brand recognition. Paul Young, the Digital Director of Charity: Water explains this by saying,

“We are trying to build a movement of passionate people who are going to form a relationship with us for years…. We want our donors to be advocates. We want them to share content, we want them to feel really connected to their impact and we want them to represent that to all their friends and family” (Gray, 2013).

After people have created their own campaign to fundraise for Charity: Water, or have simply made a donation, they can see exactly how and where every dollar that they raised is being used to change the world through a program called Dollars to Projects (Charity: Water, n.d.). This program pools together all of the money raised on mycharity: water from a certain time period and sends 100% of it into the field. Over the next two years, donors will receive photos, updates, and GPS tracking of the projects being implemented with the money they contributed so that they can stay in the loop and see the tangible impact that their contribution is having. (Charity: Water, n.d.). Not only is this incredibly engaging, it is also very transparent which encourages people to donate and can make a nonprofit stand out among the rest.

So, the moral of the story and the key to online success is engagement. If you want your organization to thrive with social media, take notes from Charity: Water and engage your donors through an active presence online. Give them the power to feel as though they are part of the organization and making a tangible difference. 

-Erin Kost


Charity: Water. (n.d.). Retrieved April 23, 2015, from http://www.charitywater.org/

Chaudhary, D. (2014, January 26). Charity:Water Explains How They Use Social Media and Content Marketing To Raise Funds Online. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from http://www.dutiee.com/charitywater-explains-how-they-use-social-media-to-raise-millions-online

Fankhauser, D. (2013, August 19). What Brands Can Learn From charity: Water’s Digital Strategy. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from http://mashable.com/2013/08/19/charity-water-digital/

Gray, C. (2013, December 27). Nine Digital Marketing Lessons Nonprofits Can Learn from charity: Water. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from http://www.bethkanter.org/charitywater-digital/

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3 thoughts on “Charity: Water Leading The Way In Social Media For Nonprofits

  1. This is a great post, and a great organization! In high school, my class president created a campaign with this organization and, I don’t remember how much, but I do know we raised a large amount of money to go towards clean water. It’s true, having an online presence for any type of organization really helps in efforts to gain more acknowledgment and support. If I’m ever trying to promote anything, big or small, I’ve had success in gaining more supporters when posting it online. The fundraising campaign for this charity is ingenious. As supporters continue using their organization, they gain more promotions along with money for their campaign. This is something all organizations should strive for.

    -Sarah Winn

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  2. WOW! The power of technology! I think it is amazing how people can become so involved just through pictures. I guess they really do speak a thousand words! This company knows its audience and how to appeal to them. They are doing things that will better the world and taking everyone along with them. Raising that much money is great for any company whether they spend thousands on advertising or like this company, spend nothing. I think people should learn from this company and see how much money we can save. We could do so much with that extra money! You did a great job on your post!

    – Paytience Shaffer

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  3. I really love your post and this charity. I have heard of them before, as I’m sure many others have too. I am astonished that they do not spend any money on advertising! It is so cool that non-profits have the ability to get their issue out their and publicized without spending money that is going to a good cause on advertising. I think that many of their campaigning methods can be used by us, future advertisers. Their three pillars to achieving this success are to inspire people, create a platform for them to make a huge impact and provide reporting so people can see their impact is absolutely genius. Inspiring people to help or at least want to help donate, or support a cause sounds pretty easy. It is hard to get someone to actually commit to sending money or aid. I think that is where the genius of having a platform to make an impact on is a good idea. When giving help is more accessible people are going to be more inclined to do so. Then sharing the progress the charity has made as a result of people’s efforts is going to re- inspire them to continue to donate and inspire others to donate as well because they see a direct connection between their dollar amount and help for the less fortunate.
    I love when I see such a positive force in social media because so often it has negative connotations of gossip, bullying, or just wasting of time. Sites like Charity Water’s instagram are beautiful and I think that this is a form of advertising that people don’t find intrusive or annoying. Instead it is inspiring, refreshing pictures that give me hope for human beings.
    -Danielle LeFrancois

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