WaterAid used an integrated national campaign to get their advocates walking for water and raising money down under. Freya Paterson and Peter Buckmaster report.

WaterAid used an integrated national campaign to get their advocates walking for water and raising money down under. Freya Paterson and Peter Buckmaster report.

WaterAid supporters had been calling for years for an ‘event’ or ‘initiative’ on which they could focus their energies during National Water Week, which takes place every October. Walk4Water is a pre-existing annual event which takes place mainly in the UK. A stripped back, supporter incarnation of the ‘Walk4Water’ has taken place in Australia since 2006, run by a small group of Victorian businesses seeking to get fit for a cause.

Support for the initiative grew year-on-year: $4,000 was raised in the first year, $9,000 the next and $17,000 in 2008. In 2009, WaterAid in Australia decided to pilot Walk4Water as an official national event and test the event as an integrated campaign.

Walk4Water, for what?

Walk4Water aimed to educate and involve supporters in a way that brought them closer to the core issues facing the world’s poorest people. Supporters were encouraged to walk 10,000 steps a day – the average number of steps people walk in the developing world to collect water for their daily needs.

The campaign strategy focused on an ‘advocacy campaign’: a strategy to identify champions to recruit and encourage supporters on behalf of WaterAid. In terms of fundraising, the campaign aimed to recruit cash supporters for conversion to regular giving in subsequent campaigns.

The integrated strategy included:

Email marketing to the existing WaterAid eNews list, asking people to join Walk4Water Paid search Online media releases Landing page with viral flash animation/video clip, registration, downloadable facts sheet Social media applications, Facebook and Twitter Advocacy – support through social networks Advocacy – word-of-mouth promotion by WaterAid staff and champions Workplace posters and newsletters Acquisition tactic of offering free pedometers to supporters signing up to the campaign a week before the launch date.

The campaign targeted corporates, schools and individuals (through referrals, search marketing and newswires).

Champions and advocacy

Champions were identified and contacted via personal meetings, phone calls and emails. The initial point of contact was a simple and sincere message:

1) This will be fun for you
2) This is important for WaterAid
3) Look out for the registration email
4) Get your friends/company involved

Get in early

WaterAid’s corporate team, consisting of a corporate and community relations manager and coordinator, began promoting the concept from June 2009, three months prior to registrations opening. It paid particular attention to existing champions and previous Walk4Water participants. All interested parties were added to the WaterAid e-news database.

Get endorsement from the top

By giving champions ample notice, many were able to make time to meet their CEOs and secure senior level support (such as dollar matching, sponsorship of prizes and the commitment to personally participate in and promote the initiative within the business).

Simplify the user experience

Time and time again we have heard the same request from our supporters: ‘Can you make it easier for us to participate’. If registration requires more than ten fields and five minutes, it will not be used. The registration and fundraising functionality for the 2009 Walk4Water was hosted and collected online.

Champions were given the distinguished title of ‘team leaders’, making them responsible for recruiting and registering teams within their workplace and receiving and distributing all pedometers for those who registered. Team leaders were the first point of contact, reducing the level of support requested of the WaterAid team.

Promote healthy competition

The website and Everyday Hero fundraising pages featured leader-boards displaying teams and individuals who were leading the way with their steps and dollars. This was an excellent motivator for the larger national businesses as it promoted competition within interstate offices and direct competitors. The dollars raised and steps walked data was ranked within teams, driving fierce competition!


The campaign was very successful, attracting more than 1,400 registrations. The campaign created finance and brand successes, such as achieving a number one ranking in Google search for ‘Walk4Water’, which is an international event.

Pay-per-click (search) results
• 7% conversions
• a cost-per-acquisition of $27.54 per conversion (registered supporter)

Newswire release
During the 28 days the release was live, it:

• Drove 87,983 impressions
• Received 661 page reads from a PR web and third party sites
• Received 460 eBook downloads
• Was picked up by 5,790 third party sites
• Ranked in positions 1 – 3 in Google News on day of release for all target keywords

Campaign performance
• 149% on fundraising targets
• 240% on target registrations
• Return on investment of 3.13
• $90,000 fundraising total, including dollar-matching donations from corporates.

The campaign’s success was largely a result of motivating advocates within WaterAid’s corporate supporter-base. They are worth their weight in gold in terms of spreading the message and encouraging participation at all levels of the business.

Freya Paterson is the corporate and community relations manager at WaterAid in Australia;
Peter Buckmaster is head of client services at Care Network Australia.

Walk4Water is being held in October this year. Visit http://www.walk4water.com.au