Case Study: WaterAid

The international charity used photo-sharing social network Instagram to boost its Big Dig campaign

Connection: projects in Malawi
Connection: projects in Malawi

Organisation: WaterAid
Campaign: The Big Dig
Agencies: The Good Agency and Misfits

With the Big Dig appeal, WaterAid became one of the first charities to use the photo-sharing social network Instagram to connect its supporters with its work in the field.

Launched in June, the campaign went on to smash its original fundraising target by more than £1m, raising £2.25m to improve access to safe water and sanitation in Malawi.

Angharad McKenzie, head of supporter development at the charity, believes its success was down to winning match funding from the government on all donations until 18 September, and its use of real-time blogging to connect donors to the communities they were supporting.

Michael Kalane and Nathan Chiwoko, WaterAid project workers in the villages of Bokola and Kaniche, used smartphones to document the lives of people there.

Money from the appeal will be used to bring clean water and sanitation to thousands of communities over the next few years. According to McKenzie, it was the stories and real-time updates from a handful of people in the two villages that really inspired people to give.

"It is about people wanting to see where their money goes, and it is all about trust and transparency," she says. "WaterAid was out of the picture - it was supporters connecting with people on the ground."

The appeal was launched on the commercial radio network, reaching about 10 million listeners. But McKenzie says most of its income came from existing supporters who were approached through a direct mail campaign. "It was an opportunity to learn about the digital space and how to do really good storytelling," she adds.

WaterAid spent about £300,000 on the appeal. It worked with The Good Agency, which provided the creative for the direct mail campaign, and Misfits Inc, which provided the creative direction for the blog.

EXPERT VIEW: Gail Cookson, fundraising director, Watson Phillips Norman

Gail Cookson, fundraising director, Watson Phillips NormanThere are four magical elements to this campaign. Three of them are: a clear proposition (to build wells in Malawi); a matched giving offer with a deadline; and a compelling direct mail pack to a loyal supporter base. But the icing on the cake is the creative approach that uses inexpensive online resources: a blog with photos and videos that closes the gap between supporter and recipient; and opportunities to spread the word through Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, sending the campaign far beyond the regular supporter base.

Creativity: 4
Delivery: 4
Total: 8 out of 10

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