As someone who spends more time online than is healthy, I’m constantly inspired by the great work done by others in the digital space.  Every day I come across something that excites me and makes me want to get better at my own job.

As a way to spread some love and provide some inspiration for those looking for ideas, I’m planning to use our blog to regularly highlight great work done by others.

The first program I want to highlight is a long time favorite, charity: water.

charity: water is a non-profit that brings safe drinking water to people in developing countries.  Since its founding in 2006, charity: water has raised over $40 million and helped an estimated 2,545,000 people in 20 countries get access to safe drinking water.  Much of the charity: water’s success can be traced to its unique and well run digital campaign.

It goes without saying that the organization has a great website and compelling presences on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

But what makes a digital campaign great is the details.  To quote Renny Gleeson, “Little things, done right, matter. Well-designed moments build brands.”

Here are five, somewhat random things that I think charity: water does right online.

(1) They tell their story well.

The key to charity: water’s success is that they explain what they do and why it is important really, really well.

I remember seeing this video back in 2009 and thinking it was pretty much perfect.  In under four minutes the video explains the water crisis and what charity: water is doing about it.  After watching that video you feel compelled to help.  charity: water has gone on to make a ton of great, inspiring videos since then.

The videos are just the beginning.  The charity: water website does a great job of explaining why water is important, where the money they raise goes and the impact the organization is having on the ground.

In a competitive charitable giving market, it is vitally important that organizations sell themselves effectively.  charity: water gets that.

(2) They utilize social fundraising.

When you visit the charity: water website the most prominent element in the navigation bar is a link to their mycharity: water program, which allows supporters to raise money for the organization.  The link is more prominent than the link to the Donate page.


This strikes me as smart and a bit bold. Instead of simply asking people to give money one time, charity: water asks people to become a part of the organization by raising money from friends and family.

It seems to have worked.  charity: water reports that over 140,000 people have signed up and that a total of $22,121,441 has been raised through the mycharity: water program.  Based on a total raised of $40,000,000 since 2006, that means 55% of the money charity: water has raised can be tracked to these online fundraising campaigns.


(3) They send great emails.

Every email charity: water sends is concise and beautifully designed. Most importantly, they all have a purpose. Whether they ask you to make a donation or to watch a video or to buy a holiday gift, charity: water emails are designed to drive action. You can view a bunch of great examples of their emails here.


(4) They have beautiful forms.

I’m sort of obsessed with form design. A usable, well designed form can have a huge impact on conversion rates. Yet most organizations still create ugly forms that are hard to use. Forms are designed as an afterthought.

charity: water clearly values good form design, as their donate page, mycharity: water sign up page and Store check out process (up to the part where you hit Paypal) are all beautiful and easy-to-use.


(5) They are committed to digital.

If you want to know how charity: water does it, go visit their staff page and you will see.

25% (12 of 48 employees) of their staff obviously works on the digital program.  There are others that likely work on digital at least part time (with titles like Designer, Videographer and Executive Producer it is hard to tell).

Here are the titles of the twelve employees who clearly work on digital:

  • Director of Digital Engagement
  • Director of Technology
  • Senior Software Developer (2)
  • Developer
  • Software Developer
  • Front-End Developer (2)
  • Tech Project Manager
  • Web Designer
  • Online Reporting Officer
  • Email Marketing Manager

This isn’t magic.  Running a digital program is hard work that requires an organization-wide commitment.

To do digital right you have to have great talent in place to do the work.


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.