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Charity: water has been madly innovating in the philanthropic sector for many years. Its mission is to ensure that every person on the planet has access to clean drinking water. Most noteworthy are the nonprofit’s statistics.

  • It has funded 38,113 water projects.
  • Because of these projects, 9.6 million people will have access to clean water.
  • It has developed water projects in 27 countries around the world.

The organization does excellent work, and it’s also doing something innovative for its employees. Meaning, it’s looking to make their teams rich. Many in the nonprofit sector may challenge its idea. But, what they’re doing is smart, creative, and fair.

People in the nonprofit sector know that Charity: water has been disrupting the industry. Above all, it was their idea that 100 percent of the donations to program costs. It made many in the nonprofit sector angry. Even so, it did it with its group of supporters named “The Well.” They cover all the expenses of the group by giving between $60,000 and $1 million. It’s an excellent way to operate, and charities that complain about are just plain wrong.

In Charity: water’s case, one group of donors pay the operating expenses. What’s the problem with everyone else’s gifts, “100 percent,” going to direct program costs? There’s nothing wrong with the model. Meanwhile, many charities claim that it makes others look bad with their financial efficiencies. Rather than complaining, more charities should do the same.

Ensuring all employees enjoy nonprofit equity

In a recent article in The New York Times, Scott Harrison spoke of the time considering how to reward his team. It is something that all nonprofit CEOs should also spend time studying. Harrison has cemented deep relationships with Silicon Valley supporters. Those relationships include executives at juggernauts such as Uber and WeWork.

The people at Charity: water are not earning the salaries they could be at companies in the tech sector. To put it another way, Harrison is aware that he needs the absolute best talent to execute on the mission. Why not pay? He wondered for a long time why he could not help ensure that his team was well compensated. They spend days working on saving peoples’ lives instead of choosing to work at a tech company or a start-up. In other words, they have chosen not to earn more money in tech companies, but does that always have to be the case?

The Pool at Charity: water

Harrison set up a program that he named “The Pool.” It is an innovative program where start-up entrepreneurs can donate to Charity: water. When their company goes public, their employees stand to benefit. Meaning, the 78 employees of the nonprofit will earn bonuses from the proceeds. WeWork, Casper, and Uber support the innovative program. Partners have pledged 1 percent of their shares to The Pool. Above all, the Charity: water employees will make lots of money when these IPOs go public.

Neil Parikh, Co-Founder, Casper, who pledged to The Pool said, “They’re making below-market salaries. In this tech boom… why should they get left behind? It’s a win-win.”

Impact on Philanthropy

For years, people in the nonprofit sector have understood that Charity: water was different. It’s a nonprofit that has a clear goal to disrupt the staid, old and, sclerotic industry. There’s been an idea that nonprofit employees should sacrifice money for social good. For decades, donors thought they should earn a lower salary. And, often employees have received a lot less than their for-profit colleagues. It’s not just and moreover, it’s unfair.

Charity: water is pushing up against this tired idea. We are in a world where knowledge, innovation, creativity, and agility are premium. All aspects of society are changing, including work. The organization is seeking to upset the apple cart. It is pushing––hard––to redefine acceptable compensation strategies for nonprofit employees.

Currently, the nonprofit has $50 million in pledges for The Pool. When the stock sells, 80 percent of the money will flow to the operating expenses of the organization. 20 percent will go to bonuses of its employees, not including Harrison. It’s a great reward for people who have dedicated their lives to working at Charity: water.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)

© 2019 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved