We First Interview

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet | Posted on 23-03-2011


Last week I was in Austin, Texas for the SXSW mega-conference – think Woodstock, for nerds.

While there I had the good pleasure to meet a great charity: water supporter and one of the smarter guys in the cause-marketing space, Simon Mainwaring, who shot this video with yours truly for his blog (apologies for the croaky voice… SXSW will do that!).

Simon is a must-follow if you’re interested in social media for social good, cause marketing or corporate social responsibility. And I’m not just saying that because he’s a fellow Aussie!

Right now he’s promoting his new book We First, one of the first books I’ve heard of that will laser in on the intersection between social media, social good and corporate strategy.

I’ve had the good fortune to be able to thumb through a pre-release copy of the book and can enthusiastically recommend you pre-order it here.

Sending Kbell Down the Well

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Humour, Internet | Posted on 17-03-2011


My boss Scott just took a handful of big charity: water donors to Africa.

There’s nothing like being able to say thank you to our supporters – so check out the video we made for Chris Sacca, featuring the hilarious Kristen Bell.

Update for Chris Sacca from northern Ethiopia. from charity: water (special donors) on Vimeo.

PdF Audio: Using Social Media for Non-Profit Fundraising

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 09-03-2011


Last week I was the guest of the Personal Democracy Forum as they hosted one of their series of PdF Network conference calls, this one looking at charity: water’s success in online fundraising.

The PdF team were good enough to share audio of the event, and Micah Sifry put together a quick outline of the call I’ll share here:

  • Money is a by-product of great connections and great content. Again and again, Paull explained how charity: water focuses on serving its supporters with content that is worth paying attention to, and on insuring that their experience working with the organization is “filled with delight.”
  • There’s no “donate” button anywhere on charity: water’s Twitter or Facebook presences. Instead, those channels are used for what they do best, to help spread messages and build connections. Don’t view “donors as wallets,” he said. They’re people with whom to build rewarding relationships.
  • Pay attention to (and share) all the great stories that your members may have to share. Paull talked about Riley Goodfellow, an 8-year-old supporter of charity: water who convinced her friends to eat rice and beans for a month, and then got their parents to donate the money saved on food, and who carried a water can to school each day to understand what it felt like to have to walk to a well each day to get clean water. (Her whole story is here.)
  • Mycharitywater.com, the group’s distributed fundraising platform, has enabled thousands of people to build their own personal fundraising campaigns, many of them around donating their birthdays.
  • This approach has to be embraced from the top of an organization or it won’t work. Hands-on training for leadership can help a lot, otherwise people tend to reject methods they don’t personally understand. Also, charity: water is very much a “digital start-up,” Paull noted, with something like a third of its core staff devoted to online organizing, web design, coding, etc.

Podcast for: Using Social Media for Non-Profit Fundraising- charity: water’s Success

-download podcast here or visit the PdF site to stream the audio.

What is Internet?

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Humour, Internet | Posted on 28-01-2011


Via the awesome Azita Ardakani, check out this 1994 video of Katie Couric and her fellow news anchors grappling with the @ symbol and Internet concept.

And Stephen Davies adds another pearler via the comment section:

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

Foursquare Aussie Style

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Australia, Internet | Posted on 21-12-2010


Is Foursquare big in Australia? Not really (yet), but it’s surely growing and getting a push in-store:

Foursquare and Cricket in Australia

Snapped this photo yesterday in a Vodafone store at Cronulla beach, Sydney, Australia. A cricket wicket and a Foursquare blimp – I’m sure this is an unfamiliar vista for the Foursquare team back in NY, NY!

The Decline, And Rise, of Charity

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Life | Posted on 20-12-2010


Google just launched Ngrams, a really cool tool that allows you to search for the occurrence of a word in the 500 year history of millions of books.

The first word I searched for: ‘charity

The occurrence of the word charity hit a peak around 1800 after hundreds of years of high-frequency. Then, as the industrialized world grew charity dropped away, hitting real lows in the materialistic 80s.

What inspires me? The current upwards trend. Is it any wonder that we’ve seen the word charity occur more frequently over the past 10 years? I like to think that this is a sign of society moving forward.

Case Foundation & charity: water

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet | Posted on 09-12-2010


Some great folk from the Case Foundation visited our charity: water offices recently and wrote this great recap of our mission.

The Case Foundation is a really interesting social good organization established by AOL Founders Jean and Steve Case. They’re trying to use their funds and brain power to push the cause space forward online and drive more innovation in the non-profit sector. So a natural fit with charity: water.

They also filmed a video interview with yours truly, check it out:

Many thanks to the awesome team over at the Case Foundation, in particular my mates Sokunthea Sa Chhabra, Emily Yu and Allie Burns.

Instagram Makes iPhone Photos Purty

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Internet | Posted on 07-12-2010


Instagram is the coolest app on my iPhone right now. It’s a simple photo-sharing app that takes the photos on your iPhone, turns them into art, and makes it easy to share with your friends.

Here’s a photo of the Statue of Liberty I shot while on a bike ride Sunday morning:

Lady Liberty

It’s everything a great app should be:

  • Simple: a 4 year old could use it. You choose a snap (or take one), add a filter with a simple menu, then choose where to share it when you publish.
  • Does one thing well: Instagram is a photo sharing app. That’s it. You make your photos look cool, and you share ‘em.
  • Expands existing functionality: the iPhone takes great photos already, but it’s a bit of a chore to share them and they lack focus and bells and whistles.
  • Cool: the product makes your photos look cooler – further motivation to share, and thereby virally spreading the app
  • Integrated: Today Twitter announced support for Instagram, photos shared via the app will show up directly within the Twitter user interface

And here’s a before and after of a shot a rugby teammate sent from Afghanistan. His pic:


Then the same pic through an Instagram filter:

Sent by a mate in Afghanistan

Cool right? If you join Instagram be sure to look up paullyoung and follow me!

My name’s Paull, and I’m a Quora-holic

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Internet | Posted on 06-12-2010


There is one social media site I’m enjoying more than all others right now: Quora. And I’d love for you to connect with me there.

Quora is Yahoo Answers… if it was full of extremely talented people writing detailed, intelligent answers to deeply interesting questions.

I find one of the greatest battles in social media these days is signal-to-noise. As I scan through Facebook and Twitter there’s always a bunch of irrelevant or boring crap surrounding the interesting updates and links. Quora (at this stage) is different. You can choose which people and topics to follow which tailors the content. Because of this, I find that any time I dig into Quora I wind up opening multiple tabs and getting hooked on interesting info.

The biggest asset of the site right now (as with all social sites) is its people. I’m following stellar folks like Facebook heavy Andrew Bosworth, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, Flowtown founder Dan Martell, early Twitter investor and star angel investor Chris Sacca and even Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix!

My big question mark with Quora is if it will be able to maintain it’s signal ratio as it scales. As more and more people will surely flock to this service, will it be as common for questions and answers to be as interesting and valuable, or will it be consumed by the same crap that you’ll find on Yahoo Answers? This note I found on Quora via Amazon’s Ian McAllister does a great job of outlining this potential concern.

All in all, I really feel that Quora in its current position reminds me of the early days of Twitter. Most people haven’t heard of the service, there’s a small (but rapidly growing) audience heavy with intelligent early adopters, and every time I log in I find myself absorbed with great content.

If you’re a Quora user, I’d love to here your thoughts. If not, I hope you’ll join – we could use more smart people like you. And either way, I hope you’ll follow me so I can connect with your knowledge!

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