Reimagining The Charitable Experience with charity: water.

Full disclosure: Our marketing team is fully obsessed with charity: water. Wanted to be completely up front about it before you start reading because it was going to become obvious sooner or later. OK, with that out of the way, on with the post. We’ll try not to gush.  

(To be fair, we feel like they’ve fully earned our fandom. But judge for yourself.)

Since founding in 2006, the success of charity: water has surpassed Scott Harrison’s wildest imagination. To date, they’ve raised $320 million, helped tens of thousands of clean water projects in dozens of countries. In 2017 they raised $50.3 million…from their monthly donation club alone (more on that soon).

They’ve done it all with essentially zero fundraising experience before launching. Some might say a ton of their success is specifically thanks to relying on innovation instead of well-worn strategies. (Hi! Hello! Us! We’d say that!)

Back to that monthly donation club. We were aware of The Spring program because, well, some people on our team are members. (Can’t say we didn’t warn you.) What we were not aware of is that charity: water is up 70% YoY thanks to it. 70%!!!

Our jaw practically hit the floor reading that in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Then we started thinking more deeply about The Spring and how it could affect higher ed fundraisers.

The idea behind The Spring is simple enough: Members set an amount for their monthly donation. Once they join the program, they become part of a community of charity: water’s most passionate donors. That is what sets The Spring apart from just a monthly line item on a donor’s credit card bill.

charity: water has gone above and beyond to build this community and provide them with tangible, inspiring and exciting content that reinforces their motivation to give. That includes a monthly newsletter full of updates, a video series, as well as a running tally of people their donations have helped get clean water.


The Spring’s monthly newsletter, Good News, highlights the impact of members’ donations.


The effort to bring the results of their gifts to life pays off ten fold by deepening the bond members feel to The Spring, charity: water, and those who benefit from their participation.

Harrison remarks that members feel as though The Spring is part of their identity. So much so that when people lose a credit card, they’re compelled to come back and sign up again so they can have it back in their lives. That’s some serious devotion that charity: water has created amongst it’s donors.

What could that mean for your institution? Well, we don’t think any fundraiser would complain about a steady stream of monthly gifts. That’s the reliable source of our dreams. But thinking back to that 70% number, it proves how valuable it can be to bring in a huge number of lower-level donors instead of focusing on one or two big fish.

Which isn’t to say charity: water doesn’t engage big donors. In fact, they rely on their biggest donors to fully fund the charity’s administrative fund. Knowing members of The Spring aren’t going anywhere allows them to focus their energy on those efforts.

The monthly membership has proven to be (yet another) incredible innovation for charity: water and one we think a lot of schools could put their own interesting spin on. Have you ever considered something like it? Let us know in the comments!

[Monthly members aren’t the only donors hiding in plain sight. Learn how to start a Leadership Giving program and rediscover an oft-forgotten group.]

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