At last week's Institute of Fundraising Conference I heard charity:water mentioned as a great fundraising case study in numerous sessions - including my own! Whilst I'm a big fan of their communications and fundraising and think most charities can learn a lot from them, I also think it is dangerous to think that their approach to fundraising can be applied to every charity.
What I love about charity:water
First of all, charity:water are outstanding storytellers. Their video content is stunning and they know how to push people's emotional buttons and tell great stories about their work.
Secondly, they give donors clear, interesting and relevant feedback on what their donations achieve. Their transparency is fabulous and they make donors feel appreciated.
Finally they are excellent at building a community. They make it easy to share stories, they make you feel good about giving and bring people together around their cause.
Why charity:water's approach to fundraising won't work for everyone
They are still a relatively small charity . In 2011 they raised $18 million dollars. To get into the top 200 US Charities you need to be raising $30million+.
Their culture is built around openness, conversation, content curation etc - for established, slow moving organisation this is difficult to replicate - though this doesn't mean you shouldn't try!
Their fundraising model isn't particularly diverse and is built around online donations and sponsored events. This works brilliantly for them, but I'd always recommend fundraising departments have as diverse a portfolio of income as possible.
I believe their '100% of public donations going directly to projects' is a great marketing gimmick for them (and they fully audit it), but damages the sector as a whole by perpetuating the myth that charity admin costs are a bad thing.
So, please continue to admire charity:water and the great work they do, but don't think that they have all the fundraising answers! I'm pretty sure they'd be the first to admit the same.