6 Ways to Replicate Charity: Water’s Success

This past week, I was fortunate enough to hear the founder of Charity: Water speak. As expected from a former club promoter, Scott Harrison’s life of the party personality quickly illuminated the cozy nonprofit incubator, BeeSpace.

After a rollercoaster of emotion shown through Scott’s words and a colorful and concise powerpoint, I walked away with several hints of advice.

Here are 6 things that can help your nonprofit replicate Charity: Water’s success!

Charity: Water

1. Know Your Why

Optimist and author Simon Sinek states that the most important factor in an individual’s success is to “know their why” or to know the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. This same principle can be applied to nonprofits.

Harrison’s Charity: Water isn’t a nonprofit based on clean water. The organization’s why is to create and run as the world’s most efficient charity using their 100% model. And that’s the foundation that they use to make all their decisions. So know your why and your decision-making becomes clearer.

2. Bold Design Matters

When you come across Charity: Water’s website or branding offline, you wouldn’t be far off by assuming it was a top-notch consumer brand. That’s exactly the type of image Scott was trying to project.

The brand’s bold yet clean design makes it easy to stand out and remain on the minds of anyone who comes across it.  Building and designing a unique brand identity similar to Fortune 500 companies is no easy task, but it’s essential in gaining supporters and donors.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Boldly

When Charity: Water was running on fumes a year after it’s founding, Scott Harrison boldly sent a cold email to a top executive at a tech firm. This email led to a meeting in which Scott asked for a million dollars.

Asking for that mammoth amount by showcasing passion towards the cause, this charity in financial troubles was able to receive a check that gave it renewed life for the next year.

Is this a normal occurrence? Absolutely not, but what this shows is that asking boldly and with passion can sometimes be just enough to get what your nonprofit needs!


4. Showcase Your Efficiency

In the perfect world, every nonprofit would be able to donate 100% of their proceeds to their cause, however reality isn’t so simple. While Charity: Water does work on a 100% model, the real reason behind their success is how they showcase their efficiency.

By showing it’s supporters where every dollar ends up, Charity: Water is building trust and a tangible connection between it’s donors and the initiative.

Taking a similar approach, your nonprofit can also benefit greatly from the added trust and engagement.

5. Learn to Outsource!

Trying to make your nonprofit standout, be effective towards the cause, and build community takes an all hands-on-deck approach. However being short-staffed or inexperienced in specific areas can hold you back!

Scott Harrison was a marketer by nature but not a designer or engineer or clean water expert. He promoted the cause while his staff of in-house but also outsourced specialists took care of everything else.

Outsourcing is expensive, but find industry specific colleagues who can do pro bono work or at a discounted rate. People want to help!

6. Get Good at Speaking

Scott’s main role these days would have to be labeled as chief promotion officer (CPO). He is constantly getting Charity: Water’s message out there by speaking at hundreds of events every year.

Get your whole team to get good at speaking! From directors to interns, everyone on the team should be able to convey your organization’s message positively and concisely.

Doing so will lead to everyone acting as CPOs and cutting down the jargon in exchange for increased awareness of your mission.

If you learned from other nonprofits’ success, we would love to hear from you! Contact us at

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