Online Fundraising Academy: How charity:water is Harnessing the Power of Online Fundraising

Online Fundraising Academy: How charity:water is Harnessing the Power of Online Fundraising

Deepa Subramaniam, charity:water’s Director of Product, joined us earlier this week for the first session of GlobalGiving’s Online Fundraising Academy! In 2014, charity:water raised more than $35 million from more than 128,000 individual fundraisers. How did they do it? Deepa, who is responsible for constantly improving to drive more donor engagement and increased fundraising activity, shared her tips and insights.

Session Recording:

Session Notes:

For the last eight years, charity:water has been working to end the water crisis by providing access to clean water and by inspiring individuals to mobilize and create fundraising campaigns.

charity:water Model

  • 100% model – 100% of public donations go straight to the field, while the organization is funded by separate private donors
  • Seek to raise money from a variety of sources – from middle schoolers to college students to celebrities, and everyone in between
  • Pose the clean water crisis as not just a health issue, but also as a way to give time back to children to attend school, for women to spend more time with their families, for families to use clean water to tend to their garden. It’s about dignity, time, education.

Individual Online Fundraising Campaigns

The power of growing your online business is through scaling your online fundraising. The charity:water fundraising model is to encourage fundraisers to adopt the charity:water cause and raise funds on behalf of the organization by running all sorts of campaigns, because “the craziest thing you can do, is nothing.” From listening to Nickelback for a week, to eating rice and beans every night for a month, fundraisers have posted a variety of campaigns and mobilized thousands of their friends and family to donate to charity:water via

  • One of the most successful charity:water campaigns: pledge your birthday.

    • Rather than receive presents, fundraisers choose to donate their birthday by asking friends and family to donate to their campaign instead.

    • charity:water’s reasoning: find a way to make the platform accessible for everyone, something that is approachable and understandable for a lot of people

charity:water’s Basic & Applicable Practices:

  • It’s not our story, it’s their story

    • Share the stories of your supporters! Use social media or blogs to showcase campaigns and supporters who are doing great things!

  • Showcasing supporter diversity pierces more minds

    • Make it more approachable for everyone! Utilize your champions to grow your community and spread your message.

  • Segment your supporters, understand who they are

  • Prioritize who to focus on and with what level of resources to allocate to each segment

  • Once you know your main group of supporters, figure out what they’re doing and why

    • Use different testing and user testing tools: Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Optimizely, Crazy Egg,, Survey Monkey, direct phone calls

    • Play around with these different sites and find what works for your organization and the context that you are in.

  • Ask questions, find answers, ask more questions, keep asking questions

  • Sometimes knowing what you don’t know is just as powerful as knowing what you know

Engage Fundraisers & Report Back via GlobalGiving

  • Your project page is your fundraising tool – it allows you to showcase the impact donors are having!

  • Regular reports share the stories of individuals and build direct connections between beneficiaries and donors supporting the organization. Remember, it’s their story, not yours.

  • Donors also can fundraise for your organization, using the fundraiser tool!

Question & Answer:

Q: How do you identify and get champions/donors to advocate on behalf of your organization?

A: Tell stories well and with passion. Explaining why the crisis is important and what supporters can do to help tackle it is crucial. You just need 1 or 2 people to ask: “What can I do?”, so keep persevering to find those people, because they then can bring in more people and continue to grow your network.

Q:What are some steps to take to apply charity:water’s concepts to a smaller organization?

A: Don’t try to do too much at once! Find one thing that works and do it well. Decide what is most in line with your mission and then focus on that important thing – whether it’s one specific campaign or focusing on wooing one particular type of donor. Do less, but do it really, really well. As people share your work and speak on your behalf, your supporter base will grow.

Q: How often should I write thank you notes to donors?

A: GlobalGiving has a template tool, where you can create a custom template that is specific to your project. With this tool you can let donors know what impact they are having on individuals, as well as build a personal connection between your organization and your donors. For your recurring donors, consider sending them a personalized note twice a year, sharing with them just how much their monthly donations impacted specific individuals or programs.

This post was written by Destiny Nobles, GlobalGiving’s Program Intern.

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