Charity:Water has long been on my radar. Their clean branding, good storytelling and clear purpose have allowed them to stand out from the crowd and reinvent the way we imagine charities to be. I had the good fortune to meet with Scott in New York earlier this year who set up the organisation nearly 10 years ago. I was keen to meet him firstly because I wanted to find a way to collaborate but secondly because, as someone who’s passionate about ‘purpose driven companies’ I had an overflowing list of questions to ask him. Here’s six of those questions. I hope they will help inform anyone who’s interested in learning more about non profit organisations or even working for one / starting their own.
1. Why water?
Right now, simply because of where they were born, 750 million people don’t have access to life’s most basic need – clean drinking water. This means women and children walk hours every day to get water from swamps, ponds and dirty rivers – water that makes them sick. There are solutions, and we can bring clean drinking water to people in need through drilled wells, spring protection systems, and even by harvesting rainwater. We believe that water changes everything.
2. What’s the story you’re most proud of that’s come out of the work you do at charity: water?
A few weeks ago, I was in Ethiopia and got to visit some of our oldest water projects – projects that had been working and serving communities for 7 years. I looked around at the community that gathered, and had the realization that none of the kids that I was seeing under the age of 7 had ever known the dirty water their parents had known. Thanks to the generosity of supporters I actually know well in NYC. It was an amazing connection to make.
3. How important is building a great brand to the success of a non-profit?
My wife Viktoria was the 2nd employee at charity: water, and as VP of Creative, she’s been the key to building our brand. When we started, there was no “Nike” “Apple” or “Virgin” in the nonprofit space.
We’ve been very intentional about showcasing our amazing supporters, and building a brand that highlights their compassion, generosity and heroic acts to serve people in need around the world. We also believe in inspiring people not through guilt or shame (think kids with flies on their face in slow-motion video at midnight), but through possibility, opportunity and hope.
4. How did you raise to money to get charity: water off the ground?
I ran around with my laptop, making 10 presentations a day – showing people the great need for clean water I’d seen around the world, and showing the solutions that could bring life and health into these communities through clean water.
5. What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt from your experience so far?
Tenacity is important. I was told no a lot. A lot of people simply didn’t help. A lot made promises they didn’t fulfill. But you have to keep fighting and not get discouraged.
6. How can I get involved?
One of the main ways that people have been helping is by “donating” their birthdays. The idea is simple: we have enough stuff. We don’t need more ties, handbags or wallets in a world where 750 million people don’t even have clean water. People setup a fundraising page on my.charitywater.org and ask their friends and family to donate their age in dollars. So 7-year-olds ask for $7, and $17 year-olds ask for $17. 100% of the money goes straight to water projects, and you can actually see the photos and GPS of the work your birthday made possible!
Today we’re launching our birthday campaign with charity: water. We’re asking for $22 to help us celebrate our 22nd birthday. Get involved and donate here. If you’re still keen to learn about Scott and his story, check out his talk below.