Scott Harrison changed the way I think about the work of nonprofits.
In 2012, Scott stood on stage at World Domination Summit and shared his story. There was a very specific point when I suddenly realized that the story had shifted focus to Charity:Water, which Scott founded in 2006 after a service trip on a hospital ship deployed to Africa.
Scott shared the three principles at the core of Charity:Water’s approach to pursuing their mission:
- 100%: One hundred percent of public donations go to the cause because a private group of “angel investors” fund their overhead
- Proof: tie every dollar to a specific project and give the donors proof of how their money was used
- Brand: Build an aspirational brand that resonates with people, with just as much power as every for-profit brand
Sure, there are detractors to the way he frames the approach, like this critic of the 100% approach. At the same time, these three points challenge the conventional nonprofit approach to building an organization.
Two years ago, in 2014, I was asked to take on a leadership role at a local Atlanta non-profit serving children in the foster care system who have been abused and neglected. As a 30-year-old organization, Camp Horizon had a storied history and a long record of changing the lives of children in need.
As you can imagine, 30 years of history also means that we had plenty of traditions and processes that were no longer serving our mission. That was especially true on the operational side (not so much on the programming side).
In other words, it was the perfect opportunity to put Charity:Water’s philosophy to the test.
We chose to start with Proof because it was the one we felt was most actionable. In January 2016, we launched our first ever fundraising campaign that ties every dollar raised to a specific camper we serve.
At the end of Summer Camp this year, every donor who gives to a camper campaign will receive an email update telling them about their specific camper’s experience.
Just 6 months ago, every dollar we raised went into one big operating budget pool. Our donors either had to volunteer to see the impact first hand or trust us to do important work with their money.
In just 6 weeks after launching the campaign, we raised more than $35,000. That was more money raised from individual donors over a six week period during the first half of the year than at any time in our long history.
Yes, outcomes matter. We’ll always work towards better outcomes for our campers through our programming. But it turns out story matters just as much, especially when it comes to funding the good work of a worthy organization.
You want me to help? Show me why my contribution matters.
There’s power in giving people something to hold onto.
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