Why I Don’t Donate To Charity: Water

waterCharity: Water are amazing.

They’ve funded about 10,000 water projects, providing clean water to about three and a half million people. They’re ambitious, they take risks. They share their successes and their failures. They’re transparent. Their website and their use of social media are cool. They are simple and beautiful and lovable. They are an ongoing joke at fundraising conferences because everyone wishes they could do on-line like Charity: Water do on-line. I love them.

But I will never donate to them. Not as long as they continue the ‘100% model’ where they guarantee that 100% of my donation will go directly to the field.

It’s unnecessary, it’s gratuitous…the Justin Bieber of non-profit marketing. It’s irresponsible, and it’s not sustainable.

Even in the simplest of terms a donation from me would almost certainly incur ‘credit card’ fees. They “reimburse” these. They “find another way” to cover these. But what if they can’t find another way? What if they’re faced with bank and credit card fees that are not allowed to pay because of the restrictions they’ve placed on themselves? It’s unlikely…but if enough people suddenly donated on-line they’d have a debt they couldn’t pay.

And what if they can’t pay their wages? Their rent? Their electricity bill? Supplies? What if they can’t find enough ‘private donors, foundations and sponsors’ to pay these? Does my donation just sit in account, unable to be used because of their own restrictions?

And really, shouldn’t some of my donation be spent on auditing the finances behind my donation? Shouldn’t some be spent on measuring the impact of my donation? Shouldn’t some be spent on assessing how next year’s donation can be used better than this year’s?

As much as I respect Charity: Water I get the sense that perhaps they don’t respect me, the donor. You see, they say their private donors and sponsors are “some of our most dedicated: their investment fuels our long-term mission, our ability to scale as an organization and our mission to continue using 100% of public donations for water projects.” Am I – a member of the public – not capable of understanding these needs?

Most of all, the 100% Model is damaging to nearly every other charity because it gives the public unrealistic expectations. It implies that ‘100% to the field’ is desirable, truthful and even possible. It’s not.

Instead, another charity – a smaller one, that doesn’t have the backing of private donors and sponsors – will have to say that No, sorry, the 100% model is impossible. They will lose donations and lose support through the misconception that anything less than 100% is wasteful.

Charity: Water…please…for the sake of fundraising and charity and everyone’s future…please lose the 100% model.

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