A Lesson from charity:water on How To Close the Loop

Faces Helped By Charity:Water

Predominantly, it’s probably safe to say, most cause organizations concentrate on how to get people to donate to their cause. When fundraising events are going on, there is a single monetary objective. If you meet or exceed that objective, you are successful. If you don’t hit that goal, you need to go back and analyze what could have gone better.

I suspect there is an untapped treasure trove of donations that NPOs are missing, and that treasure trove can be found in potential repeat-contributors. How do you get a person to contribute to your cause time after time, however? Following the example of charity:water and how they close the loop with contributors can be a great start.

My story

This past September, I donated to charity:water for the first time. A dear friend of mine gave her birthday to the cause; instead of gifts, she asked people to donate to the charity in her name. I had heard a lot of great things about this charity anyway, so I decided to become a first time donor. I haven’t thought much about it since then. Like most people who contribute to causes, I donated to charity:water hoping that my money would be put to good use and assuming that I would probably never really find out.

But I was wrong about that last part.

Last week I received an update email from charity:water regarding where my donation was in their funnel, which of their projects my donation would be funding, how that project was going, and why that project is so important. Ever since I received that email I have been singing this cause’s praise, and if the opportunity arises I will definitely contribute again. What was the magic behind this email? A few things.


It was clear that this was not a cookie cutter email–at least not all of it. My exact donation was there along with the name of my friend’s campaign. To that extent, I knew that the information that followed would pertain to my specific contribution, which made the whole thing seem more personal. I was also impressed that the email was forthright about the progress of processing funds once I had donated them. That’s the kind of transparency social media folks often talk about but perhaps don’t really understand or exemplify.

Show Your Organization is Really Using Donations for Good

We’ve all heard stories about causes that end up using most of their funds to cover administrative fees. The actual objective of their fundraising seldom receives a large percentage of the money that was donated in good faith. While I suppose it is possible that the email could be part of an elaborate hoax, seeing a description of a real in-progress project that my money will be helping was meaningful for me. I now can follow the progress of that project over the coming months and know that I am helping in some small way. That is special.

Why Your Cause is Important

There was a detailed description of why charity:water is engaged in the project my donation is helping to fund (it happens to be in Rwanda). This not only shows that charity:water is truly compassionate about their efforts, but it also inspires me to continue contributing so these massively important projects can continue.

I Didn’t Fall Through the Cracks

In terms of the business world, three months is and/or can seem like a long time. I certainly did not expect any kind of update about my donation, but the fact that I was still in the organization’s system three months later made me feel like they really have their act together. From top to bottom, everything about this email impressed me.

You might have noticed how many times I have mentioned charity:water by name in this post. That’s yet another benefit of closing the loop successfully. When you make your donors feel special, they will talk about you and encourage others to support you. You can’t lose.

Bravo to charity:water for setting a great example in marketing and customer service. If you are looking for ways to enhance how your organization interacts with your community of donors, this group is a great place to start.