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May 23

Spotlight On charity: water

Charity: water is an nonprofit organization that brings clean water to developing areas by building wells and water sanitation projects. In just four years, charity: water hasraised over $20 million, which is clearly an enormous accomplishment. One of the most impressive things about the organization, and one of the major factors in its success thus far, is its use of social media. In fact, the charity: water doesn’t simply use social media – it has completely mastered it.

To start, the website is easy to navigate, full of pictures and graphics, and loaded with information. Most importantly, though, it is extremely engaging to anyone browsing it, making it a social media tool in itself by truly connecting the user to every aspect of the organization. Between using videos, pictures, personal stories, the blog, and creative ways of displaying success, it’s easy to find yourself simply clicking around the website to find out more interesting and creatively presented information about the organization. With each click, the viewer is connected to another part of charity: water – making it near impossible to not care about the cause.

Charity: water also uses social media as a way to connect donors with the projects that were completed using their donation. By using Google Maps, the donor can actually see exactly where the water project was built. In other words, charity: water is able to show donors that their contributions are more than just a check – they have tangible outcomes and an actual impact. Not only does this decrease the distance between the donor and the project they funded, but it also makes a donation seem less about money and more about what it can do. It empowers the donor to think not “I donated $10,” but instead “I helped fund a well in a village in Bolivia and I can show you a picture of it.” This makes the donation process much more personal, appealing, and effective.

Charity: water is also active on Twitter and uses the platform to spread information about the organization, connect with followers, and fundraise. In February of 2009, charity: water even hosted a Twestival to raise money for the organization. An astonishing $250,000 was raised – through Twitter alone – and charity: water spread awareness about its cause around the globe. It’s crazy to think that a simple social media platform like Twitter could generate this kind of effect, but charity: water proves that social media, when used creatively and effectively, can be an enormously successful tool for nonprofits.

Social media gives nonprofits an opportunity to multiply their impact. Whether it is to increase fundraising, spread awareness about the cause, or connect with related organizations, social media can be extremely valuable in engaging people in the cause – whatever it may be. Best of all, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are absolutely free to use, which actually gives nonprofits no reason not to take advantage of them. Bottom line: social media is all about connecting people, and nonprofits can use it to connect people around the world to the organization, the cause, and each other.

Rebecca Birnbaum is a Program and Research Intern with the SISGI Group focusing on nonviolent conflict resolution, nonprofit management, and sustainable development. She is a senior at the University of Michigan, where she studies Anthropology, Political Science, and Peace and Social Justice. To learn more about the SISGI Group visit www.sisgigroup.org.
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1 comment

  1. Ryan

    Great post! I was recently on Charity: Water ‘s website and I completely agree with you. One of my favorite things about their presence on Twitter is that it gives anyone and everyone a method in which to interact and suggest things to the organization. Though I must say, I have been a little disappointed that I have yet to receive a response from them with any questions I’ve tweeted in their direction.

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