Charity: Water and Giving in the Internet Age

May 17th, 2010

At this past weekend’s Big Omaha conferenceScott Harrison gave a presentation about his background and how that led him to run Charity: water. The entire room was still. Silent. And I’m pretty sure we were all thinking the same thing: Wow. What I’m doing in the world really doesn’t matter much when you get right down to it.

Scott’s story is inspiring. Resemblances of the turned-my-life-around story we’ve heard before aside, what he’s done is identify one of life’s core requirements and done something about it in a meaningful way. People need clean water to live. To operate on a daily basis. To do anything more than just barely get by. That’s why the story hits us so hard – we take so many basic things about life for granted because it’s part of our society. Turn on the tap, hit the water fountain outside the restroom, fill your cup at the quickie mart. We have water everywhere.

Besides the story and the inspiration of actually making a difference in the world, there’s something else that struck me about Scott’s presentation. To help promote the effort and get more participation from the public, he eliminated the barriers often cited by the masses as reasons NOT to donate to charity. He has ensured that 100% of the public’s donations go to the direct charity efforts. All of it. Every penny. So if I give $20, all of it goes to the $5,000 total needed to build a well that can deliver fresh, clean water to 250+ people.

He then puts it into clear perspective that nobody can argue with. The slide he shows of a New York City (and many other places) $16 martini next to a $16 bag of rice that can feed a whole lot of people is about as simple and direct as you can get. How easy would it be for any of us to give up ONE drink out per week and donate it to a deserving charity? The answer is VERY easy. Incredibly.

So it’s easy and you’re assured that every dollar you donate goes to actually making a difference in people’s lives. Other organizations provide funding for the organizations operational costs and fees. Even credit card processing fees are fully reimbursed by the organizational funding so that every dollar the public gives is solely dedicated to the cause at hand.

Digging a well in Ethiopia

Then they push it even further. They post photos and video of the projects on their website. They add well locations to a world map that’s accessible online. You can see exactly where the money is going and the people and places that are being helped. Every detail of what you’re contributing to is right there for you to see.

A message like this was a lot harder to get across before the Internet and websites were around. Now, with what is now simple technology, we’re almost right there in the village where people are being helped. We can see and know that our money can help real people.

They’ve broken down the barriers to giving, and broken down the barriers to saying, “No” to giving.

So that could be why Charity: water is now a cause I have donated to. And I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t donated to nearly enough causes. Ya gotta start somewhere, though – right?

I encourage you to do the same »

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