Unexpected Marketing Lessons Through the Transparency of charity:water at IWNY 2013
Internet Week New York 2013 (IWNY) was held last week at the Metropolitan Pavilion, “in the heart of Silicon Alley,” as the IWNY website put it. The pavilion is an open space with a warm feel to it, an apt place for the startup and tech world. This is the view as I walked in on Thursday:
The view from the IWNY entrance.
Every time that I attend one of these events, it motivates me. Perhaps it is the people, maybe it’s the innovation, or generally it could be that everyone is there because they want to learn and explore. Unlike, NY Tech Day
a month ago, this event is more about the community of, and the culture of innovation in the Internet business world. NY Tech Day was a place for startups and small businesses to exhibit their wares, but IWNY had much loftier ambitions. IWNY was about large companies that are changing the landscape of the media and digital workplace. On Thursday, May 23rd
when I arrived at the pavilion, Scott Harrison
was the keynote speaker who was up next. He is the founder of charity:water
, a non-profit organization that aims to bring clean water to everyone in the world. I have seen Harrison speak in videos, I follow him on twitter, and I know that charity:water is one of the biggest stories in NYC non-profit news over the past two years, but even with all this knowledge, it was still motivating to see someone, like Harrison speak about a cause in person, and to feel the passion that the person brings to their organization. As a marketer for a nonprofit technology company, I took many of the initiatives that he spoke about as gospel.
charity:water has a strategy that makes sense; they want to be as transparent as the water that they seek to provide to the world. By this, I mean that the organization wants to show its donors exactly where their money is going, and, at the same time use 100% of the donation for the cause. Harrison said that his friends always talked about the “black hole of charities” and I have heard this reasoning as well. Many people are disillusioned by charity organizations because they don’t believe that their donation is going to the people that they aim to help; or it is lost to fees and overhead expenses. This brought up a great point for me: Show, Don’t Tell
– I had an English teacher in high school that always said this. He meant that the students in the class should use description of a scene, or an emotion in their writing and not just a general statement: “The lines furrowed my forehead as the thoughts swirled through my head” instead of “I was so mad.”
This lesson translates to nonprofit marketing strategies in a simple way. Think of an organization’s website or its Facebook page as the “face of the organization.” Now, show the visitors, don’t simply tell them with your content and discussions.
- Share things that exemplify what your organization does and support things that your audience will relate to and, in turn, will relate back to you.
- Be transparent in your writing, and by this I mean that your content should reflect a personal/human touch and not be proselytizing.
- Show your audience the end results of your work. Let those that support your organization see that results are happening and that the money donated, or the time given is well worth the effort.
The goal of this is to relate to those who would be your patrons, or your donors. The core message that came from Scott Harrison, with all of his wonderful stories of hope and change, is that organizations need to, more now than ever before, in this new Internet landscape, to be transparent and relatable to the people that support them. ~Josef