This past week, I was exposed to my first sponsored advertisement while scrolling through my Instagram newsfeed. I’d heard a lot of my friends complaining about being exposed to advertisements, yet I myself had a different experience. The ad belonged to a non-profit organization, charity: water, and featured a young Ugandan boy drinking clean water from a pump. The photography was not only absolutely stunning, but also delivered a powerful message.
As Public Relations major with an interest in non-profit PR and international studies, I did a little background research on charity: water and its efforts. The organization, created in 2006, vows to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations, with 100% of its funds going straight to the cause. What really sets this charity apart from others, however, is its marketing campaign. According to Paull Young, charity: water’s Director of Digital Engagement, the charity raises 75% of their funds through their digital channels and social media (Girling, 2013).
charity: water is one is of the first to implement a transparent, interactive way to show where donations are being spent. A microsite, “My Charity Water,” tracks every dollar donated by the general public with a GPS and photos so that individual donors can track the impact they have made (Girling, 2013).
We’ve all heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” charity: water has built an enterprise upon this idea by perfecting their use of photography within their marketing campaign. With over 177 thousand followers on Instagram, the charity shares photos of their water projects and the people who benefit from them (Loomba, 2012). The images are absolutely breathtaking, featuring children from all over the world. Ethiopia, Uganda, Bangladesh, and Cambodia are just a few of the many countries featured on the non-profit’s Instagram account.
charity: water was the first non-profit to acquire one million followers and has now grown to nearly one and a half million. The organization uses Twitter to bond with followers, increase awareness, and promote fundraising campaigns. The results they have seen from this media outlet alone have been incredible. The charity’s birthday campaign raised a whopping $965,000 for clean water efforts in a single month. charity: water was the first recipient of the Global Twestival, and received an additional $250,000 to dig clean water wells in Ethiopia, Uganda, and India (Twitter).
Of course I had always known that social media contributed greatly to the success of non-profits around the world, but I had no idea that new media could be this influential. The fact that a charity can raise 75% of their funds through digital channels is beyond impressive. I credit the organization’s success to their impeccable use of photography to showcase their charity efforts. I know that for me, the image I was exposed to built a sense of credibility for the brand, and allowed me to establish a connection with the cause.
Girling, D. (2013, March 13). How Charity:Water use Social MediaSocial Media for Development | Social Media for Development. Retrieved February 24, 2013, from http://social-media-for-development.org/how-charity-water-use-social-media/
Loomba, A. (2012, June 12). Charity Water | Anita Loomba. Retrieved February 24, 2014, from http://anitaloomba.com/tag/charity-water/
Twitter (n.d.). Raise awareness for charity: water | Media. Retrieved February 24, 2014, from https://media.twitter.com/success/charity-water