Teach Me How to Startup

Charity Water: Run By Former NYC Club Promoter, Built Like a Startup

n596457399 272581 8498 e1325537399386 Charity Water: Run By Former NYC Club Promoter, Built Like a Startup

Mr. Harrison

It’s hard to find a more social media-savvy philanthropic organization than Charity Water, whose good deeds are often being tweeted by the same folks who finance startups and launch tech companies. Over at Bits today, Nick Bilton interviews founder and CEO Scott Harrison about the non-profit’s tech bona fides.

Mr. Harrison, a former club promoter who used to make a living “selling people $16 drinks and $300 bottles of vodka,” got the idea for Charity Water, which provides clean and safe drinking water to people in the developing world, after living in Liberia with a group of humanitarian and surgeons.

The tech connection came very early on in the non-profit’s history. 

“For example, Michael Birch, who successfully exited Bebo, was our initial bridge to Silicon Valley. Through Michael we started spending more time in Silicon Valley and got to meet people like Dennis Crowley and Jack Dorsey.”

“Because we acted like a start-up, people who run start-ups could associate with us,” Mr. Harrison tells Bits.

Since launching five years ago, Charity Water has raised more than $58 million from 250,000 donors, which brings up the other startup-esque characteristic. Mr. Harrison has been particularly successful at raising money online, where 75 percent of its donations come from.

Like the rest of the tech world, however, he’s still trying to figure out how best to incorporate those computers in your pocket into the mix. “No one has figured out mobile giving, yet. We’ve experimented with text campaigns with some degree of success, but we’re really looking for that big idea in mobile and giving.”

Hmm, mobile + micro-giving? Your move, socially-conscious disruptors.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com