'40 Days of Water' goes online

Nonprofit Blood Water Mission (BWM) was founded in 2005 by the band Jars of Clay to help fight the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa.

Client: Blood Water Mission
Agency: Blue Ocean Ideas
Campaign: 40 Days of Water
Duration: February 17 – April 2
Budget: About $12,000

Nonprofit Blood Water Mission (BWM) was founded in 2005 by the band Jars of Clay to help fight the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa. This year, BWM and advertising and marketing firm Blue Ocean Ideas adapted a previously offline fundraising effort — “40 Days of Water” – to an online platform.

The campaign called for participants to give up all drinks except water for 40 days and donate the money they saved to benefit a clean water project in northern Uganda. Sponsors could also pledge support.

“It's an opportunity to educate and raise awareness around the water crisis,” says Mike Lenda, BWM's US programs director. “In years past, we sent out paper cards for people to keep track of beverages. We wanted to open it to more people…and provide interactive tools and resources to share.”

Brody Bond, co-founder and creative director of Blue Ocean Ideas, says the team created a “micro social networking site” to maximize engagement. He notes that the goal was to make the site personal and simple. Word about the campaign was spread exclusively online.

The team sent messages calling for participation via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and BWM's main website—bloodwatermission.com. The team posted water facts and visuals on Twitter on a daily basis. Targets included previous participants, social media influencers, and the team's personal contacts. 

“We also asked musician advocates…to reach out to their social media followers,” Lenda adds.

A video on the 40 Days site provided information about the campaign and how to get involved. Participants created personal accounts, which included unique URLs, profiles, photos, and links to their social media pages. The site tracked the number and value of renounced drinks, and a downloadable toolkit allowed participants to share information with friends and family.

The campaign drew more than 1,400 participants, up from 241 in 2009. The 40 Days site tracked nearly $35,000 in donations during the 40 days. Lenda says more than $50,000 had come in as of early May. He expects more than $70,000 total (compared with $50,000 in 2009), noting that it usually takes 60 days to collect all pledges and donations.

Since its February 16 launch, 40days.bloodwatermission.com has received 25,123 visits. Within the 40 days, Facebook fans and Twitter followers both increased by 10%

Lenda says a BWM post-campaign survey found 75% of people heard of the campaign through Twitter or a friend, and 80% hadn't previously participated in a BWM campaign.

The team will launch a summer campaign called "Lemon:Aid - make a stand for clean water," Lenda says, encouraging families and communities to organize a lemonade stands at a local events and donate money raised to BWM for water projects in Africa.  

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