I think nonprofits need to be more real. More genuine. Less formal. And, less afraid of being real and genuine (Tweet this!).
Charity : Water, a nonprofit founded just 9 years ago (in 2006) raised more than $43 million in 2014. Growth like that is nothing short of explosive. And, I think one of the reasons why they know how to motivate people to give money to their cause, is because they are not afraid to be open, honest, sincere, and candid.
In early 2013, after finishing 2012 with donations totaling $33 million, they were not afraid to talk about how they did it. They leaned in and spoke with a reporter from Truthout-a tough-minded, nonprofit, investigative online news organization. Sort of like Consumer Reports for everything besides product reviews. While many nonprofits might have been afraid of an interview with Truthout, Digital Director–Paull Young, was not.
“One of the things we’ve learned at charity: water is – we’re really out there,” Young explained.
“When we’ve expressed failure and uncomfortable transparency, people have really come out for us.”
In the interview, Young even felt comfortable telling the reporter an unflattering story about one of the company’s annual birthday celebrations (held each September so everyone can gather around a newly constructed water project). A couple of years back, the party was in Malawi, where three attempts to dig a well had all failed. “It’s very difficult terrain,” said Young. “There’s 40 layers of sand, and it kept caving in.”
Although the project didn’t work out very well, charity : water actually made a video about the failure to showcase the challenges they face, and accent why they need more help from supporters. Young said, “Of all the videos we’ve published, it had one of the most powerful responses to it. In fact, Nicholas Kristof was tweeting about how he was struck by the openness. The sector really engaged around it.”
By the way, Nicholas Kristof is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist with over 1.6 million followers on Twitter. He writes op-eds for the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Bottom line. Being more transparent can keep critics at bay and make charity-minded individuals more sympathetic to your mission (Tweet this!). So don’t be afraid. Instead, be more real.
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