The September Campaign was how I first heard of charity: water. Back in 2008 Beth Kanter sent a tweet about ‘giving up’ your September birthday for clean water. Being a September baby, I clicked through to the charity: water site, started a campaign… and the rest is history.
I had a striking experience this week seeing old and new marketing clash head on in a battle between two of the world’s largest companies: Visa and American Express.
I’m at Heathrow Airport waiting for my flight back to the States after watching my mate Ben St Lawrence run for Australia in the 10,000 meters final at the Olympics. With some time to kill before my flight, I decide to buy a Tshirt from the Olympic store to mark the occasion. I line up for 15 minutes, get to the counter… and can’t pay. The Olympics only accept Visa.
I only have a few coins left in my wallet, so have to trudge around the airport, pull out 20 quid from an ATM (with a foreign penalty) and go back to the Olympic store to buy my shirt. I curse Visa under my breath the entire flight home.
Every Monday a few of my mates get together for a steak night. I check in on Foursquare, as is my habit. Immediately I’m notified that American Express has a $5 off deal in the restaurant, because I’ve signed up for Amex Sync.
I tell all my friends about the deal, they check in and get a discount too. We all pull out our American Express cards instead of cash to pay the bill. American Express save us $20, and we have a positive conversation about their brand as we walk home.
I tweet about the #steakscore, and when I wake up I see a tweet @ me from Amex:
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.
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?
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.
The ABC team visited our charity: water offices in NYC and spent a bunch of time with our founder Scott Harrison, and then headed to Central African Republic to film Jim Hocking and our partner ICDI drilling one of the 200 water projects funded by this year’s September campaign.
Check out this awesome video of Jim at work in CAR
And this clip with Scott filmed in our office in NYC
If you can watch the show live at 10pm on Friday join us on Twitter with the hashtag #2020 – the whole charity: water team, Scott and Jim will be watching it live and live-tweeting during the show. If you can’t catch it live set your DVR or check out the full episode online later on (I’m not sure if you’ll be able to watch it outside the US though).
I’m excited for Friday – I hope you’ll help us spread the word!
charity: water was born in September – and every year in September we ask our community to fundraise together with us to make a huge impact.
This year, we will be raising $1.7 million for Central African Republic to provide clean and safe drinking water to 85,000 people – including ALL of the Bayaka people.
The campaign launches August 16. If you’re birthday is between August 16 and September 30 please get in touch! I’d love you to donate your birthday alongside us. If you’re not in that window you can still spread the word. For starters, like us on Facebook for exclusive access to info and content, and right now check out a sneak peak of this year’s September story:
Why Central African Republic? Check this snippet from a recent Foreign Policy report:
Over the last year, we led a research team that conducted perhaps the most extensive survey on the impact of violence on the Central African Republic’s population. The results, which will be published in the Aug. 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, reveal a country besieged by violence and extreme poverty. We asked 1,879 adults in five administrative areas of the country about their lives, their security, and their experience with conflict. More than three-quarters said they had either witnessed or personally experienced traumatic events during the wave of violence that began in 2001, and more than half met criteria for depression or anxiety. The monthly death rate was five per 1,000 individuals (in the United States it is 0.7; the average for sub-Saharan Africa is 1.3). Put another way, 6 percent of the country’s population is dying every year.
More to come next week.
You can help. The people of Central African Republic need you. If your birthday falls between August 16 and September 30 then I want you!
For more background on September, check out last year’s trailer: