5 things I’ve learned from 2 years at charity: water

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet, Marketing, Uncategorized | Posted on 15-02-2012

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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.

  • Be Positive

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.

  • Don’t ask for money

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.

  • Do It Wrong Quickly

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.

  • Be personal

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).

Smart CMO Virtual Forum

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Events, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 17-01-2012

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Last year I was honored to be invited to record a session for the Smart CMO Virtual Forum, an innovative online event providing top-notch content to a remote audience.

The Smart CMO team just shared a video of my session to share with all of you, check it out to hear about all the work we’re doing in marketing at charity: water:

The next Smart CMO virtual forum is scheduled for March 1 2012 – sign up to see more content like the above, from even better speakers than yours truly, such as the CMOs for both the NFL and SAP.

Where does my iPhone come from?

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Current Affairs, Internet, Life | Posted on 09-01-2012

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This morning just before I headed to work this tweet from Clay Shirky pointed me to an incredibly interesting podcast from This American Life:

Like many of us, I spend most of my waking hours touching an Apple product. First thing in the morning I fire up my iPhone to check overnight notifactions. For my full workday I bang on my MacBook Pro. When I get home I’m liable to unwind with some Fifa 12 on my iPad. Apple products and electronics surround my life, but I rarely stop to think about where they come from.

After listening to this podcast, no longer.

Like Mr Daisey the narrator, I always assumed a high tech factory used robots to construct my products with some human oversight. I didn’t think about an army of workers assembling my products painstakingly by hand while they barely made a living.

Thought provoking. Especially the analysis afterwards – are sweatshops like this a fact of life in developing countries that lead to growth despite our western sensibilities? Or do we as consumers, and more importantly Apple, Dell and their ilk who make massive profits from the labor, have a responsibility here?

Quoted in the WSJ #humblebrag

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Current Affairs, Humour, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 28-11-2011

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Humblebrag (urban dictionary): Subtly letting others now about how fantastic your life is while undercutting it with a bit of self-effacing humor or “woe is me” gloss.

Somehow winded up in the Wall St Journal twice today.

First was for work, quoted in an article on the new trends in online philanthropy. 18 words made the quote, 2 of them “Justin” and “Bieber”.

Read the whole article here, here is the section on charity: water

Like some other nonprofits, charity: water, a New York-based organization dedicated to providing clean drinking water to people in developing nations, uses traditional and nontraditional fund-raising methods for separate purposes. Big gifts from private and corporate donors fund the charity’s operations, from staff salaries to ink for the printers. That allows 100% of donations from alternative channels, such as social media and the organization’s various websites, to directly fund water projects—an assurance meant to appeal to potential small donors concerned about where their money will go.

Seventy percent of donations to charity:water come from digital channels, mainly from individuals donating on its main website, by pressing the “donate” button, or going to mycharitywater.org, where anyone can set up a fund-raising campaign and ask friends to donate.

Mycharitywater.org has raised $11.5 million since August 2009. Individual fund-raisers have done everything from running marathons to setting up lemonade stands. The average campaign has raised $1,000, says Paull Young, director of digital engagement at charity: water. “Justin Bieber had people donate for his birthday,” he says. “Little girls have friends donate $7 for their seventh birthday.”

charity: water is experimenting with a new site, waterforward.org, that also relies on people’s social connections to expand the charity’s reach, but in a different way. The site maintains what it calls a “book”—a compilation of photos of people who have had a $10 donation to the site made in their name by someone they know. Once a person is in the book, he or she can bring in any number of other people by making a $10 contribution for each of them. Those people can then do the same, and so on. In effect, every donor becomes a fund-raiser.

The site is designed to make donating fun and engaging, and to allow donors to see that their contribution goes beyond the amount they can give, since each donation can lead to so many more donations, says Michael Birch, a major fund-raiser and contributor to charity: water who has helped the organization build its websites.

The second was more amusing. For 4th of July this year I embarked on a Texas trip with a bunch of rugby mates. For the occasion, I was in search of a stars’n’stripes Speedo… a surprisingly difficult item to acquire.

I turned to Zaarly, an awesome iPhone app turning commerce on its head, and a few hours and $50 was delivered a US flag speedo by a very confused personal shopper.

That same confused personal shopper appeared in a WSJ video today talking about his experience with Zaarly… his most awkward moment (you guessed it), my speedo.

Watch from 1.40:

charity: water in Sydney

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Australia, Business, charity: water, Events, Internet | Posted on 21-11-2011

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I’m currently home in Australia visiting family and I’m taking the opportunity to host an event in Sydney to share the story of charity: water.

If you’re in Sydney this Thursday, November 24, I’d love for you to join us at the Exchange Center at 6pm for drinks and a presentation.

RSVP here to join us!

Start With Why: Simon Sinek

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet | Posted on 03-11-2011

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I’ve recently had the pleasure to meet and learn from Simon Sinek as he has been doing some work with our charity: water executive team.

Simon’s clarion call is to ‘start with why‘ – he boils down the need for purpose to be at the core of businesses in today’s web-based business world into a simple, but highly compelling framework that will change how you think about your brand.

I strongly urge you to take 5 minutes to watch his TED Talk:

Then, think about what the ‘why’ is for your organization.

For charity: water, our ‘what’ is to bring clean and safe drinking water to the nearly one billion people living without.

We’re still working on firming up our ‘Why’, but you can guarantee it will revolve around helping people see their impact.

That’s why we mark every water project on Google Maps. That’s why we devote energy, time and resources to developing features like Dollars to Projects. And that’s why we’re different from every other cause out there.

Internet Trends Data

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 19-10-2011

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Mary Meeker is one of the most respected Internet trends analysts. The report she shared yesterday at the Web 2.0 Summit has some amazing data, key points:

  • 81% of users of top global Internet properties are outside the USA
  • In 3 years, China added more Internet users than exist in the USA
  • 55% of Twitter traffic is from mobile devices, 33% of Facebook traffic
  • “Mega-trend of 21st century = empowerment of people via connected mobile devices”
  • 85% of world’s population covered by commercial wireless signals – compared to only 80% having access to electricity

Full report is here – if you’re at all interested in where the web is heading, read it!

KPCB Internet Trends (2011)

The Power of Thank You

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Marketing | Posted on 25-09-2011

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This September charity: water turned five. Here’s how we celebrated:

We made hundreds of personal thank you videos for our donors and supporters. You can see them all on a special YouTube channel here, and our staff favorites are up on the blog here.

It was cool to get a great response from Alyssa Milano for this video:

And my personal favorite was getting to say thank you to Andrea Harrison’s dog, Sabin:

I’ve rarely felt as happy and professionally fulfilled as I did on our 5th birthday as we got to say thank you to our donors and show them what they mean to us.

This comment from Beth Kanter stood out, and shows why I was so proud of my team for their work on this:

The videos feature staff and you can just feel the love they have for people who share the organization’s passion for its mission of getting clean water to people around the world.

I view digital and marketing strategy through the sphere of relationships, and there is no better way to build a strong relationship than to give back to those who give to you!

Presentation: Social Media for Nonprofits

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Events, Internet | Posted on 02-08-2011

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This Thursday I’m speaking at the Social Media for Nonprofits conference in NYC, talking about charity: water’s digital approach via a case study of the 2010 September Campaign.

If you can get to the event on Thursday in NYC please join us, but if not – never fear! I covered similar content earlier this year at the Fundraising Day conference and the awesome folk at SankyNet were good enough to record and share my presentation.

Here’s the video:

And here’s the slides on slideshare:

Video: Cause and Brand Partnerships with Simon Mainwaring

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 24-06-2011

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Last week a good friend of charity: water Simon Mainwaring stopped by the office during his NYC trip for the launch of his new book We First.

Not only is Simon a fellow Aussie (so you know he’s a good bloke), he’s also one of the smartest people thinking forward about how capitalism will change as the consumer conscious starts to guide purchase decisions (enabled in large part by the Internet).

I’m a big fan of Simon’s work so I took the chance to film a quick flip cam video with him in our office. Here’s the result – a quick conversation between the two of us focused on the future of cause marketing and brand partnerships with non-profits:

Brand & Cause Partnerships with Simon Mainwaring from Paull Young on Vimeo.

If you enjoyed that (I hope you did!) then you’ll love Simon’s book. I’m biased because he’s a mate, but I strongly recommend a read of We First to any marketer – it will help us not only lift the brands we represent, but also show how we can play a role in making the globe a better place for brands and consumers alike!

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