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  • Tan Nguyen

charity:water

One of the great things about this 6-man marathon effort is that no matter what happens, someone in need is going to benefit. We have received (and continue to accept!) pledges for donations to charity:water. More seasoned supporters will know the deal: Pledge- but don't pay just yet- a dollar amount to charity:water. If the 6 of us can't run a total of 2019 miles by January 1, 2019, then the 6 of us will pay your pledge for you. Thus far, we have raised $1550 US in pledges!! (Plus or minus $500 New Taiwan Dollars from my sister-in-law. I can't tell if she's serious or not about pledging). (That's about $15 US).


Thus far, we have raised $1550 US in pledges!!


What will $1550 or $1565 get us if we donate to a clean water NGO? How many new wells will that get us? It's hard to say, because it really depends on where the well might be placed. Geography- and therefore climate, bedrock type, depth of underground water, remoteness of community- will all factor into how much it will cost to bring clean water to a village in a developing nation. In Africa, it might cost $8,000 (1). Elsewhere, it might be more or less (2). Adding to this dearth of information is the general fog of obscurity that seems to be generally present when inquiring about the operating cost of any NGO.


"100% of your money brings clean water to people in need."


This is where our chosen NGO, charity:water, has stepped up its transparency game. It boasts on its website, "100% of your money brings clean water to people in need." How is this possible? All organizations have overhead costs, and no one can work for free. Simple, according to charity:water. Set up two budgets! The first budget is funded by public donations, like the $1550 (or $1565) we have thus far. 100% does go to providing access to clean water worldwide. The second budget, cleverly called The Well (3), is composed of millionaire philanthropists (think Silicon Valley) who have agreed to fund mundane things like salaries, travel expenses, etc. For charity:water's efforts, an independent charity assessment organization, Charity Navigator, has given them 4 /4 stars for overall rating, and 100/100 points for accountability and transparency (4). Side note: it must be great to be a part of the Well. Seems like there are lots of perks when you're rich and feeling generous.


Charity Navigator, has given them 4 /4 stars for overall rating, and 100/100 points for accountability and transparency


And what are we getting for our $1550-1565 efforts? It's actually impossible to know right now- when we reached out to charity:water to let them know about 2019 Miles to Water, they let us know that they couldn't really say for sure what our impact will be until we actually donated money. That makes sense- any organization worth their salt can't and shouldn't be planning for a sustainable future based on the promise of future income. And sustainability is the name of the game for charity:water.


Their plan:

-partner with local organizations. They know their communities the best, and they know what the solutions are (5).

-figure out the best way to deliver clean water taking into consideration the area's specific geography (6)

-make sure the projects can be locally maintained and working for years to come (7)

-geotag all completed projects so donors at home know what impact they have made (transparency!) (8)


There's a nice flowchart of it their approach here, and a list of their projects here


Are there naysayers against charity:water?


Yes, of course. The most comprehensive critique can be found here (9), which pushes for even greater transparency from the NGO- How reliable are these local organizations? What secret agendas might these local organizations have? How often do the wells actually work? How many jobs are actually created in these communities? Who really benefits- other than the social media-conscious Millennial in search of the next like ("This is my birthday party and we funded a well in Asia!") or the tax deduction given to members of The Well?


We still think charity:water is with the best service model, and we hope you agree.


The 6 of us are also duly documenting our miles completed in an honest, transparent, and accountable way. And yes (to Emile Wang's chagrin), we are behind schedule. But fear not, we are still just about halfway through the 2019 Miles to Water Project, and everybody loves a good comeback story. Stay tuned!!


References cited, because my 9th grade English teacher put the fear of God in me (Thanks Sister Marie!):

  1. https://waterwellsforafrica.org/whats-the-cost/

  2. https://www.livingwaterwells.org/cost/

  3. https://www.charitywater.org/our-approach/100-percent-model

  4. https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=12548

  5. https://www.charitywater.org/our-approach/local-partners/

  6. https://www.charitywater.org/our-approach/solutions/

  7. https://archive.charitywater.org/pipeline/

  8. https://www.charitywater.org/our-projects/completed-projects/

  9. https://truthout.org/articles/the-problem-with-charity-water/

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