16 Ounces of Hope
Charity: is an organization dedicated to spreading awareness about extreme poverty, educating the public, and provoking compassionate and intelligent giving.
Founded only a year ago by former nightclub promoter Scott Harrison, the organization’s first campaign, Charity: water, addresses the lack of access to safe drinking water in developing nations by educating the public and fundraising to build freshwater wells for communities that need them. The initiative already has raised $1 million, thanks to a unique fundraising approach.
FundRaising Success: How does your organization raise money?
Scott Harrison: We sell a $20 bottle of spring water and give 100 percent of the money to water projects in Africa. We buy them for 41 cents each from a private spring upstate and label them. They have seven different educational messages on them — water facts, etc. We cover our administration, fundraising and all educational programs from a separate set of donors, so we’re able to give 100 percent of the money away.
FS: How do you sell the water?
SH: We produce global exhibitions about the water crisis. So we use images and videos to show people the need of the 1.1 billion people living without access to clean water, and then we ask them to make a $20 contribution and receive a bottle of water that then empowers them to tell the story. We did outdoor locations in New York at Central Park, Union Square. … We did an exhibition at Sundance. We also raise a lot of money by selling virtual bottles.
FS: What is a virtual bottle of water?
SH: For instance, you would send a Valentine’s Day card to a loved one and you would pay $20 and then they would receive the card. … And that’s been successfully done.
For Valentine’s Day, more than $10,000 was raised; Easter, more than $10,000 was raised.
FS: What is your relationship like with those who buy water?
SH: Well, in order to buy a $20 bottle of water you’ve got to be pretty educated about what we’re doing, pretty comfortable as far as the projects that we’re funding. We train our volunteers pretty well to talk about the need for water and sanitation, and then we basically tell people how much wells cost in different countries. So the [donor] understands exactly where his $20 is going and what it looks like.
Charity: proves all of the work that we do in the field. So each well comes with a GPS coordinate, a photo and a video. So we’re working on this whole sort of back-end system on our Web site. We’re going to integrate this into Google Earth, and people will be able to see the GPS coordinates. That’s in the planning stages.
FS: How do you plan on building on the organization’s success?
SH: It really is just trying to be constantly creative. I mean, an executive at MySpace just threw a birthday party and decided that she wanted to build a well, so she asked all of her friends to buy a bottle of water at her birthday party, and [she] built a well.
A tax accountant said, “Hey, I’d like to build a well in a community in Africa, and what if I sold a bottle of your water to everyone that came in for a tax return. Could I build a well?” We said sure and we got him water to his office in Midtown, and he sold $64,000 of water in two months, which was enough for about 12 communities.