Water. It’s something we, in the United States, probably take for granted. But that’s not the case for some around the world. According to UNICEF, nearly 900 million people lack access to clean water and 2.5 billion people still lack improved sanitation. That’s 3 times more people than live in the US, according to Water.org.
In the past few years, water has become a hot issue and a major topic for fundraisers. According to a brief authored by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, water-related grant-making organizations have more than tripled in the past six years and grants given to non-profits implementing water and sanitation programs have increased five times over.
Even major brands are getting in on the issue, from Coca Cola and Pepsi with their water stewardship efforts, to Levi’s Go Forth sustainability initiative to P&G’s Pur water filtration system, water is the new cause du jour. Typically, spring is a “down” fundraising season for most non-profits, having just come off of the most critical fundraising period during the holidays. Let’s take a deeper look into how non-profits are fundraising around water.
According to Charity: water’s founder, Scott Harrison, he wanted to “re-invent charity for his generation,” and in turn, he’s revolutionized fundraising. From taking simple ideas like “Pledge your Birthday,” successfully leveraging marketing to drive fundraising, getting celebrities and “real people” to participate and get the buzz going, to emphasizing transparency and a 100% guarantee that your money goes to programs, Charity: water is poised to raise $100 million by 2015.
Then, there are large, global non-profits that have been working in this space for a long time, and are using water to help reach a new, younger audience. The UNICEF Tap Project was the brainchild of creative visionary, David Droga, of the advertising agency, Droga5 in 2007. Since then, the UNICEF Tap Project has raised over $3 million by asking patrons at restaurants to donate a dollar for the water they normally enjoy for free. Each year, celebrities such as Lenny Kravitz, celebrity chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Top Chef’s Tom Colichio and thousands of passionate volunteers help to recruit restaurants, raise awareness and throw fundraisers to support the project. The funds raised have helped water and sanitation programs in Guatemala, Togo, Central African Republic and Vietnam, among others.
I had the privilege of visiting water and sanitation programs in Guatemala during my time at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. It was truly amazing to see how little money could go such a long way to help kids stay in school and improve the health and lives of communities. While not everyone gets the chance to see the fruits of their donations directly, non profits such as Charity: water, Matt Damon’s water.org and Water Aid and Water for People are utilizing technology to bring the donor closer to the “field” and see the impact your donation is making.
So on this World Water Day, let’s be grateful for the clean and plentiful water we have. Do your part and raise awareness of this critical issue, take small steps to conserve water in your everyday use, volunteer your time or donate your money to a worthy organization.