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Case Code: LDEN149
Case Length: 15 Pages 
Period: 2006-2019   
Pub Date: 2019
Teaching Note: Available
Price: Rs.400
Organization : charity: water
Industry :Safe water
Countries : Canada, United States
Themes: Social Responsibility/ Entrepreneurial Strategy/ Social Marketing/ Technology in Marketing
Case Studies  
Business Strategy
Human Resource Management
IT and Systems
Leadership & Entrepreneurship

charity: water- Bringing Clean Water to the World’s Needy

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CW’s goal was to provide clean water to every person on earth lacking access to it. It operated in 26 countries spanning Africa, Latin America, and Asia. It did not drill wells or directly execute other waterworks. Instead, it operated as a fund-raising clearinghouse for local organizations to which it subcontracted the actual execution. Its employees identified and oversaw the projects. With an increase in its capital, CW assumed a co-management role, supporting local partners with mapping, long-term planning, and strategic investing to ensure that those engaged in drilling, monitoring, and maintenance were well-equipped with machinery, staff, and training to expand in a manner that would enhance their impact...

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The first tenet that CW followed was the “100% model.” Every penny from the public donations was used to finance water projects. To ensure that this rule was not violated, the organization opened two separate bank accounts – one to route all public donations directly to the field and the second to finance overheads, staff salaries, and supplies. Explaining the rationale for the “100% model,” Harrison said, “People would constantly mention how they weren’t sure if their money was going to the cause, or to other expenses.” He added, “The problem we were trying to solve was to bring a group of people back to the table of giving who didn’t trust charities.”...


In 2012, CW received a US$5 million Global Impact Award grant from to develop and install sensors to monitor and transmit water flow at its water projects. Explaining the need for the sensors, Christoph Gorder, CW’s chief global water officer, said, “As we were growing up as an organization ... one of the challenges that we realized the industry faces was that after you build a water project and you train the local community on how to maintain it, there was very little information available on what happened afterwards. How long did it work? How much clean water did it provide? What was the impact on people’s lives?”..


Observers commended CW for going against some of the well-entrenched beliefs such as the perception that non-profit organizations should not expend much on overheads such as office spaces. “From advertising campaigns on 5th avenue, fancy galas, and magnificent office spaces, charity: water hasn’t shied away from spending on things that are valuable to their work,” commented an observer. As proof, he pointed at the organization’s gorgeous office in New York. “We think our staff is our greatest asset and they should like coming to work, sit in comfy chairs, and be in an environment to do their best work. Because the work is important!” explained Harrison...


By March 2018,CW employed 1,250 workers in the countries where it was working on water projects. By August 2018, it had raised US$320 million – the number comprised the money raised for water projects as well as for operations. By January 2019, it had funded 29,725 water projects. As a result, 8,497,062 individuals in 26 countries got access to clean water...


According to observers, CW faced the risk of other charities emulating its strategy of engaging donors online. Doug Spencer (Spencer), director of resource development at Water for People, CW’s partner in Rwanda, opined, “…I think Scott’s programme will have a shelf life. It will become tiresome and younger people will start to get sceptical because they are being bombarded online. It’s not only Scott. His space is becoming much more competitive.” A donor, who concurred with Spencer, remarked, “It’s true. If everyone gets that savvy at communicating their messages it will be harder for donors to decide.” Also, an expert doubted whether the organization would realize its goal of bringing clean drinking water to every person lacking access to it...


Exhibit I: The Gravity of the Lack-of-Access-to-Safe-Water Problem
Exhibit II: CW’s Approach
Exhibit III: CW’s Financial Performance (2012-2017)
Exhibit IV: Country-Wise Details of Projects and People Catered to