Few Donations? Blame Bad Marketing

In How We Behave, Voting On

Every piece of marketing has a hero,” said Lauren Letta, Charity: Water’s chief operating officer. “Maybe the hero is a girl in a village. Maybe it’s a drilling rig operator. Or, maybe, if you make a donation, the hero is you.”

Marketing is the art of telling stories so enthralling that people lose track of their wallets. And every marketer knows such stories can’t be too complicated. So another tenet at Charity: Water is that solutions need to be presented in simple ways. “Our approach is that water is binary,” Mr. Harrison told me. “People are either drinking clean water, which is good, or they aren’t, which is bad. We want to present an easy choice.”

That strategy — which the group propagates through online ads, social media campaigns, direct email solicitations and even the occasional billboard — has been remarkably effective. Over the past decade, Charity: Water has raised $252 million and has supported 23,000 projects in villages and rural areas across Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

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