Charity: Water

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charity: water
Charity water logo.jpg
Founded2006; 16 years ago (2006)
FounderScott Harrison
TypeInternational NGO
Area served
28 countries in Africa and Asia
73[citation needed]

Charity: water (stylized as charity: water) is a non-profit organization founded in 2006 that provides drinking water to people in developing nations. As of 2019, the organization has raised $370 million.[1] According to the organization, it has funded 44,000 water projects in 28 countries though it does not know how many of the projects are still functional.[2][3]


Founder Scott Harrison was a New York City club promoter for ten years. From 2004, Harrison committed two years of his life to the poor and marginalized through volunteer service in Liberia with Mercy Ships. He recognized that problems surrounding education, safety, and health may trace back to a lack of clean water and basic sanitation systems.[4]

Harrison founded the charity in 2006.[5] In 2007, Harrison contacted several tech entrepreneurs for assistance and advice. Among those he contacted through a 'cold email' were Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, MySpace’s Tom Anderson and Bebo’s Michael Birch.[6] Birch was the first to respond with monetary, technical assistance, and introductions to influential leaders in Silicon Valley's technology industry. Birch redesigned the charity's website and personally donated $1 million.[7]


The organization has drilled some 38,000 wells for villagers in Ethiopia, Rwanda and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.[1] It has no idea how many of the wells are still functioning, despite initial claims that the wells would provide water for decades. It is sure that some are not working. [3]


charity:water provides public reports, but these often exclude key indicators of performance. Reports do not provide information of water-well effectiveness, and metrics such as, the average required travel time to water sources, or the number or well projects currently functioning.[8]


The organization set up two separate donation funds and claimed that 100% of donations received from the public go to program costs. A small group of wealthy mega donors called "The Well" (133 in 2019) makes donations to cover the organization's overhead ($11 million in 2019).[1] In 2018, the organization raised $70 million. It paid $47 million for program expenses, $4.5 million for administrative expenses, and $7.7 million for fundraising expenses.[9]

The mega donors are celebrated at the organization's annual charity ball, and many of them accompany Harrison on trips to Africa.[1]

In 2017, Harrison received a salary of $325,278. The organization’s “chief water officer” received $293,442.[1]

In 2019, a new program was created to allow entrepreneurs to donate equity to Charity: water. When their companies are sold or go public, some of the proceeds are paid to the charity's employees as bonuses.[1]


In December 2012, charity: water received a $5 million grant from Google's Global Impact Awards. The grant was to fund the installation of 4,000 sensors to report on status and working conditions of wells installed in Ethiopia, Nepal, and a few other nations in Africa and Asia.[10]

In 2015, charity: water partnered with the silicone bracelet company Lokai.[11]



For over a decade, the organization has hosted an annual lavish gala that raises millions from high net worth individuals.[12][1] In 2015, it held its first black-tie gala, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Temple of Dendur. At the 2017 gala, organizers visited Ethiopia to take photos of children that could be matched with gala attendees.[13]

Ride for Water[edit]

Ride for Water is an annual fundraiser that started in 2013 and involves cycling across the United States to raise awareness for the charity.[14] In 2019 the team completed a 52 day journey. The 3,437-mile trip started on May 20 and traversed 12 states from coast to coast and raised $25,000 on the day of completion. From 2013 through to 2015 the team only included males. In 2016, teams of men and women rode separately for much of the journey but then joined up for the final stretch to New York.[15] The Ride for Water initiative is loosely affiliated with Azusa Pacific University because the first time it took place it was arranged by a group of graduates.[16]


Charity evaluator GiveWell published a review of the organization in December 2012. Their overall conclusion was that it "stands out from other organizations we have considered in some respects (such as conducting evaluations that include frank discussions of problems), but we remain uncertain about the humanitarian impact of their work and the relative effectiveness of their partner selection process."[17] In January 2013, an article by Anne Elizabeth Moore on Truthout stated that "questions about its impact and methods remain" and that "transparency may keep critics at bay, yet what remains unclear is exactly how many more people have reliable access to clean drinking water now than did six years ago."[3]

As of July 2021, Charity Navigator rated the organization at 4 out of 4 stars. The charity had an overall rating of 91.95 out of 100 with an "Accountability & Transparency" score of the maximum 100 and "Financial" rating of 88.62 as of July 2021.[9] Guidestar gave the organization a "Platinum Seal of Transparency".[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Gelles, David (11 April 2019). "A Charity Accepts Uber Stock as Donations. Then Uses It to Pay Staff Bonuses. Is That O.K.?". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  2. ^ Te, Nhu. "Building Donor Loyalty Through Transparency, Honesty and Authenticity". NonProfit Pro. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Moore, Anne Elizabeth (January 12, 2013). "The Problem with Charity: Water". Truthout. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  4. ^ "Scott's Story". Charity Water. 2006.
  5. ^ Paynter, Ben (2017-03-20). "How Charity: Water Uses Data To Connect Donors And The People They're Helping". Fast Company. Retrieved 2017-12-29.
  6. ^ "How Charity: Water Won Over The Tech World". Forbes. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  7. ^ Bertoni, Steven (2013-12-19). "How Charity: Water Won Over The Tech World". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  8. ^ Coffey, Anne (2 September 2019). "A Critical Investigation of Charity: Water's Effectiveness as a Clean Water Provider in Sub-Saharan Africa". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  9. ^ a b "charity: water". Charity Navigator. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  10. ^ Joy, Oliver (2012-12-04). "Charity: water receives $5 million grant from Google". CNN. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  11. ^ Reader, Grace. "How This Founder Learned to Trust His Team". Entrepreneur. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
  12. ^ "charity: water 10th Anniversary charity: ball". Empire Entertainment. December 2015. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  13. ^ Laufik, Michele (June 14, 2017). "The C.E.O. of Charity: Water is behind innovative events that raise big funds". Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  14. ^ "Ride for Water". Retrieved 2019-07-23.
  15. ^ "Ride For Water Cycling Team Conquers 52-Day Cross-Country Journey". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-07-23.
  16. ^ "Cyclist embarks on life-changing journey". Claremont Courier. Retrieved 2019-07-23.
  17. ^ "charity: water". GiveWell. Dec 4, 2012. Retrieved Dec 5, 2012.
  18. ^ "charity: water - GuideStar Profile". GuideStar. Retrieved 2018-02-21.

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