In 2009 Mark Whitehead and Forrest Walden founded Neverthirst to bring clean water to people around the world by using a fitness workout as a fundraising event they call WOD for Water. Five years later not only have they helped 300,000 people, they’ve had an outpouring response that has forced them to scale up their fundraising arm by embedding CauseVox into their website.
Mark tells us more about WOD for Water’s journey.
Tell me about WOD for Water.
WOD for Water is a fundraising arm for Neverthirst, a nonprofit ministry focused on helping people around the world gain access to clean water. Currently, we’re building wells in India, South Sudan, Sudan, and Cambodia.
Ultimately what excites us the most is people who get to hear the gospel of Jesus for the first time because of local pastors who are helping to lead these well initiatives. These pastors enter these villages with two messages– a message of an upcoming water well that will be built and the good news of Jesus.
When clean water comes to a village that doesn’t have it, it really builds up the pastor and gives him favor with the people of the village. One pastor said, “These people won’t have anything to do with me even when I tell them water is coming. But when the water comes, they love me.” When villages have access to clean water, it makes them open to the message of the pastors we’re training.
What’s different about this year and last year?
Well, we’ve always had to raise money and last year was the first time we tried CauseVox. This is our second year using CauseVox – except on a bigger scale. Because of the tremendous response to our fundraising events, we have embedded their platform into our website.
Tell me more about your fundraising events.
It’s a workout of the day where people who typically do functional fitness type workouts come together on a Saturday morning and do a fundraising workout to benefit Neverthirst.
You’ve got 400 people with the same mindset– people wanting to take care of their bodies and also wanting to help people. I actually do the workout daily and I love it.
What’s the backstory of WOD for Water?
Forrest Walden and I decided to start Neverthirst together, but Forrest is also the founder of Iron Tribe Fitness. He knew when he opened Iron Tribe that he would try to connect the workout community with those who needed water around the world.
Just a few weeks after Iron Tribe opened, we hosted our first WOD for Water event. This video was made at one of our events held last month.
Did you know WOD for Water would turn into this?
We didn’t have a clue at the potential. We’ve faithfully done it with every year since 2009 and the explosion has been surprising. We think one reason it has exploded is because of how easy it is for gyms to host an event.
It’s really simple for a gym to do this fundraiser. When a location decides to put on a WOD for Water event it’s no extra work on their part. We do all the public relations, and we already have a fundraising platform for them to use. Not to mention, it could potentially bring in new clients for their business too, especially when we have it public places like parks.
There are around 7000 fitness locations across the US and going into 2015 we’re going hoping to be able to encourage as many locations as possible to host a WOD for Water event.
We’ve had a staggering response. Here’s what we’ve been able to do so far.
2009 – A well in Haiti
2010 – A well in South Sudan, $5,000
2011 – Adopt a village in India, $34,000
2012 – 40 wells in India, $100,000
2013 – 82 wells, $207,000 Birmingham, AL
2013 – 8 wells, $20,000 Nashville, TN
2013 – 1 well, $2,500 Knoxville, TN
2014 – Knoxville raised $7,300
2014 – Nashville has raised $24,528
2014 – Raleigh, NC raised $5,747
2014 – Birmingham, AL raised $307,000
2014 – Troy, AL raised $59,000
2014 – Montgomery, AL raised $2,800
2014 – Houston, TX raised $1,500
2014 – Atlanta, GA raised $12,000
How big is your vision?
Our dream is to keep bringing water to people all over the world. There’s close to 800 million people who don’t have access to a clean water source. The ultimate goal would be if that number were zero. When we started in 2008, that number was 1.1 billion. We’ve made clean water available to over 300,000 people so that number is under a billion now.