Three Techniques for a Transparent Philanthropy Organization – Charity: Water

It is great to see more people talking about water in data center discussions, and I am glad I created a category for water.

Here is a NYtimes op-ed article about making clean water sexy.

Clean, Sexy Water


Published: July 11, 2009

People always ask: What can I do to make a difference?

So many people in poor countries desperately need assistance. So many people in rich countries would like to help but fear their donations would line the pocket of a corrupt official or be lost in an aid bureaucracy. The result is a short circuit, leaving both sides unfulfilled.

That’s where Scott Harrison comes in.

Five years ago, Mr. Harrison was a nightclub promoter in Manhattan who spent his nights surrounded by friends in a blur of alcohol, cocaine and marijuana. He lived in a luxurious apartment and drove a BMW — but then on a vacation in South America he underwent a spiritual crisis.

“I realized I was the most selfish, sycophantic and miserable human being,” he recalled. “I was the worst person I knew.”

The best part of the article was the three techniques Scott Harrison uses for improving the transparency of where the money goes.

So what’s his secret? Mr. Harrison’s success seems to depend on three precepts:

First, ensure that every penny from new donors will go to projects in the field. He accomplishes this by cajoling his 500 most committed donors to cover all administrative costs.

Second, show donors the specific impact of their contributions. Mr. Harrison grants naming rights to wells. He posts photos and G.P.S. coordinates so donors can look up their wells on Google Earth. And in September, Mr. Harrison is going to roll out a new Web site that will match even the smallest donation to a particular project that can be tracked online.

Third, leap into new media and social networks. This spring, charity: water raised $250,000 through a “Twestival” — a series of meetings among followers on Twitter. Last year, it raised $965,000 by asking people with September birthdays to forgo presents and instead solicit cash to build wells in Ethiopia. The campaign went viral on the Web, partly because Mr. Harrison invests in clever, often sassy videos.

I am actually on vacation right now, but read this article and minutes after reading it gave me some ideas on how to change some data center metrics.

I’ll be with a bunch of data center people on Weds – Fri, and in a big data center crowd at Data Center Dynamics SF. So, I may test some of the ideas then blog, or maybe blog the ideas then test it more and write about the feedback.

Even though I started out as an engineer, I’ve learned the value of good marketing and how it is needed to drive change.

“Scott is an important marketing machine, lifting one of the most critical issues of our time in a way that is sexy and incredibly compelling — that’s his gift,” said Jacqueline Novogratz, head of the Acumen Fund, which invests in poor countries to overcome poverty.

Here is information on Scott and his staff.

scott harrison.
founder, president.
In 2004, Scott served a year as a photojournalist on a Mercy Ship in Liberia, West Africa. There he became familiar with the life-threatening effects of contaminated water and upon moving back to his home in New York City in 2006, he founded charity: water.
twitter: @scottharrison

scott harrison

carrie sanders.
director of development.
Prior to joining charity: water, Carrie worked in corporate philanthropy, communications, and nonprofit fundraising. She has a Master's degree in Arts Administration from Columbia University and Bachelor's degree in Human & Organizational Development from Vanderbilt.
twitter: @carriesanders

carrie sanders

phillip william crosby.
special events coordinator.
Phillip loved charity: water long before he met us. All that we really knew of him is that he liked bicycles, music, books, and social justice. It is believed (mostly by himself) that he can do just about anything. Judging by his performance, we're starting to agree.
twitter: @phillipcrosby

phillip crosby

becky straw.
water projects director.
A graduate of Columbia University’s School of Social Work, Becky focused her Master’s degree on International Social Welfare and Social Enterprise Administration. Prior to coming to charity: water, she interned at UNICEF’s Division of Water, Environment and Sanitation.
twitter: @beckystraw

becky straw

lane wood.
Water for Schools program director.
Lane has been connected with charity: water since the beginning, and has finally jumped on board full time. He’s worked in television and in churches, has a degree in Music Business, and loves being back in NYC and part of the charity: water team.
twitter: @lanewood

lane wood

robin jones.
From cocktail parties to broken down Land Rovers on jungle roads, Robin has been just about everywhere. With a B.A. in business administration, we're glad she's just as comfortable here in our soho office as she is in Africa.
twitter: @robinisajones

robin jones

nicky yates.
executive assistant / volunteer coordinator.
Nicky received her Master's degree in Psychology from NYU in 2007. She left the New York County District Attorney's Office as a Child Victim Specialist in 2007 to join the charity: water staff. Her passion for international aid was sparked after spending time in Namibia and Kazakhstan.
twitter: @nickyyates

nicky yates

viktoria alexeeva.
director of design and branding.
Vik attended the School of Visual Arts and began her career at Fad, an NYC design house. For two years she worked on ad campaigns for Honda, Coke, AmEx and many other brands. She left the for-profit world in 2007 to come on full time as charity: water brand manager and designer.
twitter: @vikalexeeva

viktoria alexeeva

chris schomaker.
web developer.
Chris didn't think twice about packing a suitcase, selling all his stuff, and moving across the country to come work for charity: water. With degrees in computer and electrical engineering and a love for his work, Chris is making some major improvements to the charity: water website.
twitter: @cschomaker

chris schomaker

evan slusher.
Evan attended the University of South Florida and has a resume ranging from acute care physical therapy to stage production and promotion. He has experience in a little bit of everything, which works out perfectly for the operations of a growing organization.
twitter: @evanslusher

evan slusher

erica brooks.
communications assistant.
Beginning as a volunteer, Erica soon found herself attending to the thousands of web, email and phone inquiries pouring into the office. With degrees in Philosophy, Anthropology and Global Affairs from BU and NYU, she couldn't think of a better way to spend her time than helping charity: water help the world.
twitter: @eibrooks

erica brooks

alison warner.
A certified public accountant by trade, Alison holds a degree from Lehigh University and a lifelong passion for international travel. In addition to her work in public accounting and in the private sector, Alison has gained valued exposure working on a non-profit foundation with assets in excess of $40m.

Alison Warner