In Conversation With: Scott Harrison

May 2015

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 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!

Thanks Scott.

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.

  • Sara Bear

    we need more people like this in the world. I am truly inspired by all of this

  • Marieline78

    Hey there!. I donated to Charity: Water and certainly will again very soon. When i give money i don’t give a lot but i give often and try to keep up with charities i’m involved in. I also sign a pledge every month through Music For Relief in order to “Power the world” with sustainable energy. Would love to work for a charity company one day, travel in countries ” in need” and provide medications, food, water etc… There’s so much to do in this world, unfortunately none can be everywhere at the same time. I’d love if you guys from Jacksgap or anyone reading me could have an eye on Music For Relief. It’s been founded in 2005 by Linkin Park and they’re all doing a MASSIVE job helping people all around the world. They team up with some artists as well, here’s the link to their site, ( and i’m very tempted to finish this comment with a little video about how to power the world. Thanks Finn for posting this interview. :)


  • Florencia

    charity:water is my favorite foundation. I found out about them thanks to my school’s program of social entrepreneurship and innovation and it gave me so much happiness that know my dreams are focused towards making a change like they have. Please donate and/or create a campaign!

  • Ankita Dhal

    My native place happens to be Orissa. I was born and brought up in Mumbai. Even though I’m still very much connected to my home state, I had no idea the caste issue was this bad there. One of the worst social evils in our country happens to be the caste system which has deprived so many people of their rights and necessities. Glad to have watched this video. I feel inspired and will definitely contribute to the cause. Great job guys!

  • Rizki Putri

    Inspiring for my morning :)

  • JackandFinnlover143

    I donated to the Red nose day charity and I feel like others should too.

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