This is a guest post by Namira, a law student who just returned from the The Hague, where she was interning at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Apparently, she cares a lot about those without clean water! You can follow her on twitter right here.


I learned of the organization, charity: water in 2008. It was two years old at the time, and I remember being blown away by the fact that 100% of all donations would be sent to the field because founder Scott Harrison was friends with wealthy and generous individuals. Then I read that it took just $20 to provide 1 person with clean water. Later I learned that charity: water engages and trains the people whose lives will be affected so that they can build and maintain the well themselves, thus transforming communities. Suffice it to say that I became a massive fan of the organization.



Charity: water got its start using the idea of “donating your birthday” for a good purpose. Founded in September, the organization goes all out for its September Campaign each year. I had supported charity: water from afar in smaller ways before my first campaign, but during the 2011 September Campaign I decided I would give up my birthday – one that actually happens to fall in September – for the cause. I was turning 23, and I decided to request $5 or more from each person giving.


My birthday is near the end of the month on the 24th, so I decided to officially launch my campaign on the 1st of September with the aim of raising $250. I figured $250 was a “safe” amount (i.e., one that was possible for me to reach), and was very happy with it. To my surprise, come the 4th of September, I met my initial goal, and two days later, a friend almost doubled the amount raised by donating $230. The rest of the month floored me over and over again: by the 21st of September, I had broken $1,000.

Donations came in from friends, family, and acquaintances (with strangers donating near the end of the campaign). I focused on getting word out through Facebook and, interestingly enough, Gchat statuses and conversations. What I noticed was that a strategy of “threes” often made my efforts click: it was upon the third introduction to the cause and campaign that people took that step of giving their own money. On Facebook, I updated my status and tagged friends individually, posted notes and tagged people, and posted pictures in albums and tagged there. 


I found that utilizing charity: water‘s pictures and stories of individuals benefiting from donations mobilized my friends into spreading the word and donating themselves. Images of men and women collecting dirty water from a muddy and distant pond made the concept that “there are people who have no option but to drink unsanitary water” real. In contrasting those images with the ones of men, women, and children holding clean glasses of water from charity: water-built wells, potential donors realized the magnitude of the effect they could have on those far away with just a small donation. After all, we were in the year 2011 – no one in this day and age should have to drink dirty water, and, what’s more, walk miles to get it.


By the stroke of midnight on my birthday, we broke $2,000.


I had friends who were more excited than I was as the numbers rose on my campaign page ( Charity: water dubbed me one of that year’s 6 most creative campaigners. My 23rd birthday was fabulous. From dreams of $250, “I” ended up raising a total of $2,410 that year.


As a person of faith, I found myself contemplating the numerous heavily-worded Islamic injunctions regarding donating to the poor in a far different light: the action of giving certainly seems to do something to your own soul faster than any material benefit happens to reach the recipient’s.  


Over the next 18 months, I occasionally received updates from charity: water regarding how my money was being used. I sat and stood and worked and lived and thirsted for further details. This year, in June, I finally got the long-awaited email with the magical words: “The wait is over. Proof of your money is finally here!” In it was a link to a “My Projects” page, where I was able to see pictures from – and the coordinates of – Bobenga Village in Central African Republic, where just 8 campaigns, mine included, served 1,009 people.  Subhan’Allāh.


It’s hard to describe the immensity of feeling when looking at pictures of a well in Africa that your friends and family helped build. When people ask me about this and other charitable fundraising endeavors I’ve participated in, however, I quote to them a saying of Mother Teresa’s:


“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” I usually add: “You never know, in your efforts to improve one life, you may just end up touching a hundred lives despite – well, perhaps more accurately, because of – your best intentions.

Have you ever done a Birthday fundraising campaign? In the comment section below tell us about it!

Action Ideas:

Even if your birthday isn’t in September, you can Pledge your birthday to charity: water! I (elisa) did this too a couple years back and it was an awesome experience!

Because of the success of charity: water’s September Campaign and online fundraising, many other organizations are creating a way to collect money for your birthday on their own websites.  Does your favorite charity have a way to fundraise money for them on your birthday?

If not, Causes, on Facebook, or websites like Crowdrise can help you raise money for a specific organization on your birthday.