From a fundraising perspective, one of the great successes of the last few years has been charity: water.  In five years the organization has evolved from a lean startup charity into a fundraising juggernaut that has raised millions online and provided potable water to an estimated two million people. 

The organization just rolled out its annual September campaign, which is their big fundraising push each year.  While charity: water clearly has more resources at its disposal than the average non-profit at this point, the fundamental set up of the campaign is something that any organization should be able to replicate. 

(1) Set a goal and a timeline.

The goal of this year’s September campaign is to raise $1,200,000 by the end of September.  On their site they include a real-time counter showing their progress in the campaign.


Setting clear goals like this and showing progress helps to make donors feel invested in the campaign and creates a sense of community.


(2) Tell tell people where the money will go. 

The money raised for the September campaign will be used to purchase a drilling rig that will help provide potable drinking water to 40,000 people a year.  charity:water provides a detailed breakdown of how the rig will make an impact and how the money that is raised will be spent.  People are more likely to donate if they know exactly how the money they give will be used.


(3) Use matching.


If charity: water reaches its goal, a donor has agreed to match the $1,200,000 and purchase a second rig for the organization.  For donors, this essentially means that their donation will be doubled.  I know this isn’t a tactic everyone can use.  However I would advise non-profits to pitch the concept to large supporters. 

(4) Use video to mobilize.

charity: water has been a pioneer in the use of online video to mobilize.  This years September campaign video (embedded below) is fantastic. 


After watching that video, it is hard not to be inspired to pull out your credit card and make a donation.  Video can inspire emotion in a way that straight text can’t.

(5) Don’t just encourage people to donate, encourage them to fundraise.  

Economic times are tough, so there is only so much the average person can give to an organization like charity: water.  In an effort to give people ways to help beyond donating, charity: water has a robust online fundraising system that allows people to tap into their own networks to help charity: water reach its goal.  For a long time, this took the form of encouraging supporters to ask friends and family to donate to charity: water in lieu of birthday gifts.  While charity: water appears to have built their own custom fundraising system, tools such as Crowdrise and Rally provide inexpensive ways for organizations to launch similar fundraising campaigns.


Your most passionate supporters want to help you.  Provide them with ways to.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.