Founded in 2006, Charity: Water is aimed to provide developing countries with clear drinkable water. Since then the organization managed to attract various partners and now plays a comanagement role, controlling mapping, long-term planning, and strategic investing on the ground. Besides that, it is elaborating new data technologies to connect donors and the people they are helping.

663 million people all over the world – twice the population of the US – live without clean water. They live in isolated rural areas and spend hours a day walking to collect water for their family. And this is not a question of time and money. When people are out for water, they obviously are not able to earn money and their kids have to stay at home instead of going to school. Here the point is that the water in these regions very often carries dangerous diseases. So, no one will argue that clean water is a full synonym for education, income and health, especially for women and kids.

Now founder of Charity: Water, Scott Harrison, being signed up for volunteer service, was took aback when he saw the level of West African countries poverty. Known for his luxurious and arrogant lifestyle in NYC, he confesses: «I fell in love with Liberia – a country with no public electricity, running water or sewage. Spending time in a leper colony and many remote villages, I put a face to the world’s 1.2 billion living in poverty. Those living on less than $365 a year – money I used to blow on a bottle of Grey Goose vodka at a fancy club. Before tip».


Charity: Water Foundation

In 2006 Harrison put his charity idea into action. He founded Charity: Water: a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries through water-pumping and -purification projects. The mission that can be found оn the organization’s official website is hardly arguable: «Every dollar invested in clean water and sanitation efforts puts at least $4 back into the local economy, in part because people end up healthier and have more time to contribute to their communities, according to the World Health Organization». The water programs are aimed at 24 countries around the globe: in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, which can be clearly seen on the map.

Since its foundation, Charity: Water, with a $40 million annual budget, funded nearly 23,000 projects helping 7 million people. Some pallid statistics to think over: the average water project costs $10,000 and affects nearly 300 people. In addition, some projects need to be maintained because of breaks down for various reason. And it is usually very expensive.

How To Make People Believe

«The biggest problem with charity is that people don’t trust charity», – says Harrison. As Charity: Water exists by 100% public donations, Harrison and his team publish all updated information online to make people believe that charity exists and really works.

For example, when they first started paying for wells, Google Maps suggested to tag each completed project with GPS coordinates and share this info via the official website. When cofounders of the social network Bebo Michael and Xochi Birch volunteered to promote the back-end fundraising technology even further, the donations increased. So, in 2009 Harrison even created the special project named the Well. It includes «a group of dedicated major donors who make multiyear pledges toward overhead». Now the number of its members is 118, whose donations can cover approximately two years of operations.


Lithium-Powered Sensors Instead Of A Guy On A Motorbike

Since Charity: Water team started to gather more precise information about their work and help their partners with joint projects, they understand that «a guy on a motorbike with a phone and observational survey» to get information is not enough. The organization could make real changes when it won a $5 million Global Impact Award from Google in 2012. They developed, built, and installed two types of lithium-powered sensors, that could keep tabs on water usage remotely.

The product they implemented was a designed in San Francisco plastic box «that can be installed below the spigot of an Afridev well, the most common hand pump across sub-Saharan Africa Inside, a stack of six capacitance sensors measures the level of water, which correlates to what’s flowing out each hour. Once a week, that data is sent via a text-based GPRS message to a cloud-storage locker». As a result, Charity: Water team in New York can view the status of each well easily with the help of the Dispatch Monitor, showing one of four possible status: Flowing, Needs Maintenance, Inactive, or Unknown. So far, there are 3,000 of these sensors installed in northern Ethiopia.


Charity: Ball 2016 And Its Impact

In December 2016 Charity: Water conducted Charity: Ball 2016, with a slogan «Come raise a glass and help us serve 100,000 people in a single night. 100% of what you give will directly fund water projects for people in need».

The Metropolitan Museum of Art witnessed various guests, punching donation sums into their iPads, when Harrison was onstage. The screen refreshed the donation total every 15 seconds. Then a sum of $500,000 appeared. And after that roughly 20 other donors contributed to double it. By the end of the night Charity: Water managed to raise nearly $3.2 million: nearly everyone in the room contributed. «There is no question this was a fantastically successful event», – says Anne Wallestad, president and CEO of BoardSource, a nonprofit advisory group. David Goldberg, CEO of Founders Pledge, believes that such a model is «changing the way that we think about charity».

The next morning, Harrison saw the names of all the contributors to the Well and started to think over that Charity: Water had already started to be back at work concerning data-collection operation to measure such indicators as health, hygiene, and sanitation changes after wells were installed. «I’m already terrified of what we are going to do next year», – he stated.

Every story needs a resolution. Thank you for helping us solve this one. Photo: @joeyldotcom

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