Reinventing Charity

This week charity: water is having its annual town hall where they discuss how far the organization has come and their plans for where it’s going. But this time it is going to be a little different. For the first time in their 7–8 year history, they are coming to the table and presenting some ambitious three-year goals. The executive team worked super long and hard to define what charity: waterreally means as an organization. So as a little take away from the town hall, Vik asked me to create a small booklet for each employee to keep in a drawer or on their desk. There’s a lot of information going down in the presentation and there’s no way anyone will ever remember it all. To solve that problem we made this little guy for people to look back on every now and then. We had a budget of a few hundred bucks…so I spent it all on french paper, thinking, “Oh I can print, cut, and bind this in house. No problem.” Welllllllllllllll, yes problems.

All the money I spent on paper went out the window when our printer laid out a nice magenta streak on about 50–60 sheets before I noticed. So now, half of the books are printed on a gorgeous 70lb text true white speckletone from french paper and half are printed on standard white printer paper. C’est la vie. I laid out the books so each would be exactly 1/2 of an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. Mistake. Don’t ever think that’s a good idea. I had to lay out a separate document and resize every spread by 1/2 an inch to account for the printers “grip”. Many a time I loaded the paper in the wrong direction and got some wicked misprints. But I think they are pretty cool. Anyway, now on to the stuff that actually matters.

In its history charity: water has brought clean and safe drinking water to four million one hundred thousand people. That is such a big number that people read it and breeze past it without giving any real thought into what four million people looks like. I wanted to open the book up with this number because of how powerful it is. It’s what we go to work for every day. It’s what everything is all about: helping people get water. With that said, I wanted whoever was looking at this spread to really take it in. Really think about those people and that number and what we all go to work for. That is why I devoted a full page to say, “Please take a second to think about this.”

A lot of people ask what made me make the switch from advertising to the nonprofit world. Honestly I don’t think I would have gone to work for any organization other than charity: water. Their vision is different. They have a much bigger idea than most companies, a larger purpose. It’s not only about water. It’s about charity in general. They saw something that was being done so, so poorly and so dishonestly and they changed it. They go to the ends of the Earth to make sure that every. single. dollar. donated from the general public goes to the field. Not only that, but you can track exactly where it goes. They want to reinvent charity. To take something that so many people lost faith in and shine a new light on it. They want to set the precedent for the entire field moving forward. And they are off to a pretty damn good start. They never break promises, 100% means 100%. When you have things like this happening you realize how, and why, charity needs to be reinvented.

Graphically, I wanted to lay out something where the new was overlapping the old to convey the feeling of reinvention while still acknowledging the beauty of the old/original. And I’ve been DYING to use a black letter on everything/anything at all, so…yeah.

Like I mentioned before, this book was created for people to have a quick reference guide to the organizational goals, mission, and whatnot. But we also wanted to leave room for their individual performance plans. So anyone can meet with their team leader, lay out their goals for the year, and write them down in the back of the book. That way they can check on it every month or so and stay on track with their plan. Too often, we get lost in jobs and tasks that throw us way off course of where we’re headed. But if you just write stuff down it’s much easier to get back aligned. How many times have you gone to the grocery store only to get home and be like, “Shit, Butter.” and then you have to order pizza because you forgot the butter? Just make a list, dude. There are 100000000 list apps that all claim they are different, but honestly they are just list apps. Anyway what I’m trying to say is that writing things down is always better.

A few months ago Vik, Tyler, and I had a brain-storming sesh for a little ad campaign and the line “The craziest thing we can do is nothing” was born out of it. It was perfect. All through charity: water’s history people have called them crazy for how they went about trying to reinvent the way charity was done. But the craziness was contagious, and our supporters are unlike any other. They are insane, they are amazing, they are talented, they are weird, but they LOVE charity: water more than anything. It’s become part of their lives and we could not be more grateful for every single thing that they do. When it comes down to the end of the day, someone out there is drinking water from a dirty puddle and that’s not okay with us. The craziest thing that we can do is sit back and let that happen.