Quora: What Digital Tactics Have Been Most Successful in Building charity: water’s Online Audience

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 17-01-2011


I was asked the following question on Quora about charity: water’s online approach. For those of you not on Quora yet (you should be), I thought I’d share here as well.

What digital tactics have been most successful in building and engaging the charity: water audience?

Firstly, I must point out that looking at digital tactics in isolation doesn’t tell you much – there’s a real need to understand the digital strategy they are a part of to best understand our online success… but that’s for another question.

Some key tactics that have helped us build and engage our audience include:


The importance of compelling content cannot be understated. We focus on producing entertaining, informative and inspiring content each and every day.

Video content has been particularly powerful for us (to get a good feel for this view the videos at http://charitywater.org/september) and is a continued focus for us.

Likewise, photography is important for our brand. We regularly share beautiful pictures from the field online as a way of helping our donors understand the change they can make in people’s lives.

The written word is important too – we have a full time blogger on staff who adds new content every day (http://charitywater.org/blog) and also writes longer stories to showcase on our site (http://www.charitywater.org/proj…)


Not exactly a digital tactic, but the simplicity of our messaging is key to our online success.

Simple, compelling messages allow our audience to easily share the importance of the water issue:

  • 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water
  • 4,500 children die every day from water related diseases
  • More people die from lack of access to safe water and basic sanitation than all forms of violence, including war
  • $20 can give one person clean water
  • $5000 can fund a water project that can provide safe water to 250 people

These messages are simple for our audience to absorb and share. Because of this, I’ve seen 8 year old kids do a better job of telling the water story than I ever could.


The fundraising platform mycharitywater.org has been incredibly successful for us, raising over $6 million in its first 15 months in operation.

Beyond just fundraising, mycharitywater plays an important role in building our online audience as each and every fundraising audience is also a Word Of Mouth marketing campaign.

Every fundraiser shares our content and our mission with their closest friends and family, a powerful way for us to connect with new audiences. The 6,000 fundraisers to date at mycharitywater.org have formed a grassroots movement that has taken our message and content and shared it with audiences we never could have reached otherwise.


1.3 million Twitter followers attests to the importance of this channel for our cause. Twitter is an incredibly important venue for us – it’s where we share our latest news, launch online campaigns, connect with influencers and converse with our supporters.

In addition, Twitter is one of the favorite social networks of our supporters and one of the main places they share our content and promote their own fundraising campaigns.

Twitter has been one of our top 5 traffic drivers for the past 2 years.


While for most the charity: water brand is synonymous with Twitter, Facebook is also a favorite venue for us and continues to become a more important site for us to engage with our supporters.

We use our Facebook page to talk to our inner-circle of supporters and try to give them a closer look into our day-to-day operations. During our September campaigns we posted behind the scenes videos on our fan page every day. In addition, the good folk at Buddy Media donated their Facebook platform to us, which has enabled us to expand our presence to add virtual gifts and other interactive elements.

As with Twitter, Facebook is also a favorite social network for our audience. Since the launch of the Open Graph in mid-2010 our Facebook traffic increased over 1000%. And as an example of how our audience can use Facebook on our behalf, we saw our greatest traffic day ever in September 2010 when Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith posted about their partnership with us (http://charitywater.org/willandjada) to their 10 million + fans.

In 2010, Facebook was our top referring site, only behind direct traffic and Google search, and for the first time outstripping Twitter in terms of unique visitors.

Happy to delve more into tactics and share other numbers, so please leave a comment if you’d like me to add any more thoughts

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