Campaign to watch: water for the holidays.

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campaign: Clean Water for Christmas
raising the money: Steve from Atlanta, Georgia.
goal: $2,000
raised so far: $3,240
mission statement: “What if we did something different this Christmas? What if, instead of asking for things for ourselves, we asked for something for someone else? What if we changed the statistic of one child dying every 19 seconds because of a lack of access to clean water?”

It’s a simple ask — don’t get me a holiday gift, donate to clean water projects instead. That’s what Steve told his colleagues, his friends and his family, and in a matter of weeks, he raised more than $3,000. We asked Steve how he used the Christmas spirit to lead a successful campaign:

Steve created short videos like this to tell people about his campaign.

When did you first hear that nearly a billion people live without clean drinking water?
My original interest in the water crisis started about four years ago when my pastor spoke about it at church. Thankfully, he used enthusiasm and hope instead of guilt to motivate us to give. Since then, I’ve realized guilt is really good at motivating for the short-term but terrible for the long-term. When there’s hope and joy, you feel invested, and as someone who loves Jesus, I should be invested in the poor and the marginalized.

So about four years ago, my wife and I began to give (at that time it was to World Vision). Every Christmas we would ask that a small percentage of the presents coming our way would instead fund clean water projects. As the years progressed, that percentage became bigger and bigger.

xmas board

Then I read a book by Rick Stearns (President of World Vision), which inspired me to leverage the talents I had to raise awareness and money for those without access to clean water. So, that’s when Dirty Water is Dumb began. I wanted to use entertaining videos and social media to inspire people to give. I wanted their reason for giving to be hope, not guilt.

And how’d you hear about charity: water?
I first heard about charity: water when Jon Acuff (author of the blog and book Stuff Christians Like) mentioned Scott Harrison’s work. I was blown away by the efforts y’all have made to eliminate all reasons for not giving (GPS coordinates for finished projects, making sure 100% of the money goes to projects on the ground, etc.).

Why’d you make your campaign a holiday-themed one?
In some respects, Dirty Water is Dumb was made for this time of year. It was pretty cool to see that charity: water already had the idea to “give your Christmas away,” the same way people give their birthdays away. It’s very encouraging to see others do this as well.

You broke through your goal in a matter of weeks. How’d you do that?
I know it sounds cheesy, but I think that God has shown favor to this campaign. Immediately after posting the video to YouTube, three of my coworkers donated. They loved the video and were extremely generous with their money as well as their support (they posted the video on Facebook for their friends to see).

I wanted to use entertaining videos and social media to inspire people to give. I wanted their reason for giving to be hope, not guilt.

One of them told the head of our 200-person office. The Vice President there pledged to give $100 and showed the video to the entire office. Within 24 hours of his pledge, my initial goal of $1,000 was met.

Not only were my coworkers (many who would not have gotten me a Christmas gift) more than happy to give, they also shared the videos on Facebook and Twitter. Then, a week later, they did an interview with me and put that up our company’s intranet site (our company has more than 1,000 employees). The Chief Technology Officer gave $250. Our Chief Architect gave $100 and encouraged everyone in his department to give. It was unreal. This whole process has been really humbling.


Did people outside of work get involved, too?
Additionally, I’ve been sending emails to family and friends. I’ve also been posting on Facebook and Twitter at peak times. The water crisis is such a big but solvable problem. Sometimes the issue is simply that people don’t know about it. I don’t want that to be an excuse for those who know me. Thankfully, social media has made it possible for my level of influence to be much broader than usual.

What’s the story behind your video? Are you a singer or were you just goofing around?
My wife and I love listening to Vince Guaraldi’s “It’s Christmastime Charlie Brown” album. Immediately following Thanksgiving festivities, we pull out our Christmas playlist and start jamming along to the holiday classics. After hearing “Linus and Lucy,” I began to wonder if anyone had ever done an a cappella cover of the song.

steve and katherine

I searched on YouTube and all the a cappella covers were too slow — it didn’t sound like the original song. That’s when it hit me: this would be a perfect idea for the Christmas Dirty Water is Dumb campaign!

My wife (who is a much better singer than me) helped me pick out the harmonies. Then I went to record the song. The sounds are all my voice except for the “wire brush on snare” sound. That one was actually me scratching on my jeans. And, yes, the “ranana nanana nanana na” was my favorite part to record!

So you crushed your goal of $2,000. Are you thinking of upping it?
I’ve thought about raising the goal, but I’ve been afraid that I wouldn’t hit it… I think you’re right — upping the goal is a good idea. So ok — it’s now up to $4,000! The fundraising will happen until the end of the year. After that, I’ll start another campaign just so people can have a place to give after watching more Dirty Water is Dumb videos.

Any advice for those wanting to do the my charity: water campaign?
Hustle and pray. Leverage whatever talents you have (painting, singing, playing basketball, whatever) to raise money. You could auction off a painting or train for a half-marathon. Whatever you’re good at, do that — and work hard at it.

Also, the power of social media is incredible. Share it on Facebook, Twitter, through email, on Youtube. I think you’d be surprised how supportive your friends and coworkers will be. I know I was.


Check out a few more holiday campaigns going strong:


Ginny’s Hannukah Wish: Ginny + family are using their Hannukah this year to fundraise for water projects. They’re just $150 shy of their $1,000 goal! We’re excited to see them get there.
goh soo
Susquehanna Holidays 2011: Students at Susquehanna University have teamed up for seven (count them, seven!) mycharity: water campaigns this year, using events to raise money. This time, they’re doing everything from caroling to hosting gingerbread house competitions to raise funds for water projects.
Flora’s Holiday Campaign: Flora keeps her mission statement short and clear: “Dear Family and Friends, this campaign is for the holidays, to give clean water to everybody in need.” What better way to celebrate this special time of year?

Still want to fundraise for the holidays? Or fundraise for any other reason? It’s never too late. You can start a mycharity: water campaign at any hour of any day. Learn more here >

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