I’m approaching my two year anniversary at charity: water. In those 2 years we’ve raised over $27 million, 100% of which has directly funded clean water projects. And we’ve raised over 75% of those funds through digital channels.
Here are my top 5 things I’ve learned from my first two years at charity: water.
You can also rewind one year to read my top 5 learnings from my first 365 days here.
Inspiration is the most important part of our digital strategy. We inspire people through stories that help them see how they can change the world.
We think about building long-term relationships with every supporter, and in order to build strong relationships we want to give them regular positive feelings by inspiring them, thanking them, educating them and recognizing them. We don’t make people feel sad or guilty.
To bring this to life I juxtaposed the ASPCA’s tear-jerking overwraught commercials, with Helen’s Story, a beautiful piece written by Becky Straw telling the story of Helen Apio in Uganda and how access to clean water, for the first time in her life, made her feel beautiful.
The ASPCA ads have reportedly raised over $30 million. I wouldn’t take $30 million this year if I had to make all of America feel terrible in order to get there.
This learning could also be phrased as ‘tell stories’. In my two years at charity: water we’ve never asked for money on Facebook or Twitter, nor in our email marketing.
People know we’re a charity. They know the biggest assistance they can give is financial support. We don’t need to ask them for money every time we connect with them, because we’re focused on relationships with people, not their wallets.
Our year end email (when every American non-profit makes a very direct fundraising appeal) simply shared an upbeat two minute video.
This is a catchphrase I’ve adopted from my friend and mentor Mike Moran. Do it wrong quickly doesn’t mean go out there and break everything. It means experiment, measure deeply, trial real use cases as quickly as you can and do more of what works.
Don’t come up with a beautiful strategy in 400 Powerpoint slides and roll it out a year later after dozens of meetings, presentations and approvals. Find the smallest test case you can use, ship it, measure it, and if it works in the market expand it.
We’re taking this approach with the new product WaterForward. An experiment in giving, we’re trying a lot of things to see if we can make WaterForward explode virally, but even if it doesn’t the experience from trying will boost us.
Seth Godin said it well: familiarity (like using my first name in a mass email) isn’t personal – personal is one-to-one and MUST be authentic.
Authentic personal interaction always takes time. The payoff though, can be huge.
Think about the last brand that really took the time to personally interact with you. I’m willing to bet you have a very positive memory.
An example of how we do this is the 250 thank you videos we prepared and sent to individual donors on our 5th birthday in September last year. This took weeks of effort, time from all our staff and even more from a small army of vounteers. The goal was to make 250 people feel special — in the end we look at these videos as one of our biggest successes of 2011.
- Help them see their impact
Informed by Simon Sinek’s ‘golden circle’ we’ve realized that the most important thing we can do at charity: water is bring people closer to the impact they can make by supporting us.
People are essentially good, and if they see how they can make a change in the world, they’ll do amazing things. We are focusing a great deal of time, energy and effort on helping this happen for all our supporters, the key example being the most exciting project we’ve launched, Dollars to Projects.
If you’d like to hear me chat about this stuff, here is a recording of a webinar I did recently with Artez Online touching on general charity: water info and the five learnings.
How charity: water raises millions through digital channels from artezmedia on Vimeo.
(Note: My slides didn’t convert to Powerpoint properly so sorry for some in the video being ugly! The better slides are embedded as Slideshare above).