Water1st was created to support water projects that would last. We believe poor people are their own best resource in escaping poverty, and we support solutions based on their priorities. We listen, involve community members in the process, and fund solutions that are most effective in the long run.
We provide consistent support to our on-the-ground partners. As a result, our partners are able to nurture trusting relationships with communities and local leaders, and retain qualified and experienced staff, allowing them to be effective in implementing long-term solutions.
We visit our projects and partners to see the work firsthand, to hold our partners accountable, to affirm them in their work, to share and exchange knowledge, and to provide information to our donors. We make sure each project is providing the intended benefits and generating the best possible outcomes. It’s important to us that your donation is spent wisely and is making a real difference in the lives of the people we serve.
About This Cause
This year marks our 10th Anniversary. We have a lot to celebrate. In 10 years, the Water1st community has given over $11 million to fund 1,200 water projects, transforming the lives of 123,000 people.
Water1st was started in 2005 by a handful of professionals with solid experience in the water and sanitation and fundraising sectors. Our focus was simple: build an organization from the ground up with the ability to consistently implement high-quality water and sanitation projects that provide permanent solutions for the world’s poorest communities. At that time there were very few non-profits focused solely on water and sanitation. There were even fewer that were consistently implementing projects that really addressed the underlying issues of access to water and toilets. For the sake of the world’s poorest, the status quo had to change. Addressing the water and sanitation needs of the world’s poorest is the one activity that, when done properly, generates benefits that can lift a community out of extreme poverty. There is no exaggeration in the statement: supporting and implementing water and sanitation projects properly is the best investment and best hope for the world’s poorest.
Why did the world need a new water and sanitation organization? Because 35-50% of water projects fail in the first 3 to 5 years after completion. That appalling statistic has remained true for the past 30 years. Why? Because fundraising for new projects often takes priority over monitoring the old projects. This means that less than 10% of projects receive any follow-up attention after the ribbon-cutting ceremony and organizations are not learning from past work and improving their outcomes. We knew it didn’t have to be that way – our experience proved that we had a method that was successful and provided permanent solutions to people’s water and sanitation needs.
Water1st was created to support water projects that would last. Our vision was to support local, on-the-ground organizations (our partners in this work) with a proven track record of implementing effective, long-lasting water and sanitation projects.
Since most international nonprofit organizations do not follow up on their projects, we would be different. We visit our projects and partners at least once a year to see the work firsthand, to hold our partners accountable, to affirm them in their work, to share and exchange knowledge, and to provide information to our donors. We make sure each project is providing the intended benefits and generating the best possible outcomes. It’s important to us that your donation is spent wisely and is making a real difference in the lives of the people we serve.
Rather than jump from country to country to fund projects, we work with local, in-country non-governmental agencies who have a proven track record of implementing sustainable water projects and fund them consistently, year after year, building them to capacity. As a result, our partners are able to nurture trusting relationships with communities and local leaders and retain qualified and experienced staff, allowing them to be effective in implementing long-term solutions. This approach also allows us to efficiently saturate a region with water and sanitation projects.
We fund basic, cost-effective projects — piped water systems, sanitary toilets, and hygiene-education projects. Our partners prepare communities to operate and maintain their projects so they can sustain the health and productivity dividends that only a water and sanitation project can produce. One of the reasons we have selected our partners is that they have very good judgment about the specific technologies that users can operate, repair, and replace. Often that means investing in projects that have higher up-front capital costs but are much cheaper to operate over time. It also means that our partners often pass up on fancy new gadgets that haven’t been proven in the field or haven’t developed supply chains for service and replacement parts.
There is also a philosophical value that we hold up, which we believe is key to our success — we start from a true place of respect for the people we want to assist. We believe poor people are their own best resource in escaping poverty, and we support solutions based on their priorities. We listen, involve community members in the process, and fund solutions that are most effective in the long run. Every poor community is rich in the most valuable resources – human intelligence and strength of spirit. We are successful because we invest in those resources and provide the poorest people in the world with an opportunity to accomplish something they see as critical to their own well-being.
On the fundraising side, we made a conscious decision to focus on grassroots funding from individuals. Too many organizations find themselves pursuing solutions that appeal to what donors want to do, versus solutions that actually address the needs and conditions of the beneficiaries. Putting in the extra effort needed to develop a large and strong grassroots funding base pays huge dividends when it comes to program outcomes. So we encourage individuals to get involved and be part of this movement for positive change in the world. We believe that the world water crisis will be solved when we build a community of concerned people and together, take simple and effective actions. We think there is something powerful about our coming together to serve the needs of the world’s poorest and being part of something bigger than ourselves.
For the past 10 years we have remained true to our original vision. We will continue to do so for the next 10. In a world that entices us with new technologies, new inventions, and new gadgets, we have remained steadfast to our approach and mission. We believe in this model. And we have 1,200 projects still functioning today, proving that our approach works.
Today, we are a grassroots organization of more than 4,000 supporters across the country, all doing what we can in our individual lives and communities to bring clean water and toilets to the world’s poorest people — donating, attending events, hosting house parties, presenting at schools and churches, biking for water, selling lemonAID, organizing walks for water.
We hope you will join us in this exciting movement for effective, long-lasting change in the world – one water project, one community at a time.