Water is Basic exists to empower the local leadership in Southern Sudan to bring clean water to their own people. In Southern Sudan, about 70% of the population does not have adequate access to safe water. According to USAID, one in every four children born in Southern Sudan dies before the age of five. Half of those deaths are from water-related illnesses.
Water is Basic was created alongside Sudanese leaders and provide them with the equipment needed to drill wells, and it is their vision to see a well drilled in every village in Sudan. 100% of every dollar raised goes directly to the Sudanese in order to bring clean water to their own people. Since the summer of 2008, the organization has owned two drilling rigs and has two full drilling crews hired and trained to operate these rigs. The entire staff of WiB in Sudan is made up of local people, working hard to bring clean water to their own people. For more information, check out www.waterisbasic.org.
When a person donates money to a local non-profit in their area, they can easily see the results of that organization’s efforts (new library books, a new community garden, etc.). However, international non-profits have the inherent dilemma of showing tangible results to their donors, many times relying on end-of-year mailers to keep them in the loop. Steve Harrell, US Coordinator for WiB, wanted to set a goal to alert their donors each time a new well is built. To do this, he sends emails and notates a Google map on their website, but was looking for an instantaneous method of notifying donors so can receive constant feedback from WiB.
Water Is Basic began digging and completing their first wells in Sudan by the summer of 2008. Harrell knew that this was the time to start looking for text messaging providers in order to notify donors their money had been put to good use. Harrell is also involved in a community church that uses text messaging for its youth group, and had seen how effective it can be to reach a large group of people. He searched online and looked at what a few different companies offered, and quickly realized he needed something more affordable. As a non-profit that aims to have 100% of donations go to building wells, cost was the number one factor. The fact that EZ Texting was the most cost-effective service available made it an easy choice. He also realized they could take advantage of the keyword option for members to opt-in and immediately rented the keyword WATER.
Harrell leveraged his presence on the web and social networking sites like Facebook along with email campaigns and posters. He quickly put out a campaign inviting current and past donors to “Text WATER to 313131 (or 393939 for Canada) to hear where your money is going!” He also posted a web widget on their homepage for people to signup for their text list online.
Water Is Basic uses EZ Texting to update their donors and supporters each time a new well is drilled in Sudan. The current rate is about one well per week, with an eventual goal of one per day. Not only does it convey information about their cause, but it keeps them in the loop and is a weekly reminder that great work is going on and lives are being saved. This constant reminder and "in-the-loop feeling" encourages people to donate more frequently, and to pass the word onto their friends and family members. Many people appreciate the updates and respond back to the messages with words of encouragement. These go directly to Harrell’s EZ Texting Inbox.
“Thanks to EZ Texting, our supporters know exactly where their money is going in real time,” says Harrell. Within 4 months, approximately 150 donors have signed up for WiB’s text messaging list. For a non-profit in its early stages with about 600 donors and counting, this is an amazing response rate of 25%.