WaterAid’s The Big Dig Appeal brings supporters closer through Instagram liveblogging world first

Since writing my last post on what makes for great digital fundraising content, I’ve had the privilege of travelling to Malawi with a small team from WaterAid and Misfit Inc, who were training WaterAid field staff in the use of smartphones to live blog from the remote communities they work with. All with the aim of enabling them to create fantastic digital fundraising content for WaterAid’s ‘The Big Dig’ Appeal that launched earlier this week.

The Big Dig (#thebigdig) aims to raise the £1.2m needed to provide safe water and sanitation for over 134,000 people in some of the poorest communities in rural Malawi, with all money donated by the public over the three month appeal (to September 18) being matched pound-for-pound by the UK Government.

But WaterAid also wanted to use the appeal as a unique opportunity to bring supporters closer to the real work their donations make possible in Malawi, by enabling them to follow progress day-by-day throughout the three months of hard work that needs to happen before the ultimate highlight of drilling safe water boreholes for the communities in September. To achieve this two WaterAid field officers, Michael Kalawe and Nathan Chiwoko, equipped with Smartphones running the wonderful Instagram photo sharing App, have become the eyes and ears of the appeal – recording the highs and lows of their day-to-day work with the villagers of Kaniche and Bokola, live as they happen.

It’s an incredible fact that while the people in these villages have no access to clean water, instead being reliant on filthy scoop holes in river beds which make them and their children sick, through the wonders of the mobile internet as you stand in their village you can take and upload an Instagram photo in under a minute – and see it shared globally through Facebook and Twitter just minutes later. As I did with this photo of the scoop hole at Bokola.

As far as I know, the use of Instagram in this way by a development non-profit’s field officers to share their day-to-day work with supporters in support of a rolling fundraising appeal is a world first (at least @ajleon from Misfit Inc hasn’t heard of it being done before – and he should know!). However, given the compelling authenticity of the content that results – telling the real story of the need being faced and the impact your donations can have, day-by-day, as it happens – I’m sure it won’t be the last.

For more of a feel for The Big Dig appeal, take a couple of minutes to watch the great appeal promo video below and then click-on down to their website at thebigdig.org (and perhaps even give them a donation? Remember every pound you give is doubled – and it is a great appeal!-)


Then, have a think about how you can come-up with your own innovative fundraising approach using some of the wealth of digital storytelling tools available to us today.

Instagram was used in this case because it proved to be by far the easiest way to share stories from these remote communities, live. We would have loved to use live video, but while the mobile internet there is good – it’s just not that good. So video content like this has to be uploaded separately.

Your cause might not be the same as WaterAid’s and the situations you work in may be very different – all this means is that the tools you can use and the approach you take to bring your supporters closer is likely to be different. But used in the right way, the positive impact on your fundraising should still be the same.

And one last thought. Just incase you think this type of digital storytelling is too much to ask your front-line workers to help you with, I’ll leave the last word to Nathan in Malawi (that’s him liveblogging in my photo at the top of this post). When asked if he was happy to keep-on liveblogging throughout the project he replied “How can I stop? I feel the future development of Kaniche and Bokola is in this phone”.

2 thoughts on “WaterAid’s The Big Dig Appeal brings supporters closer through Instagram liveblogging world first

  1. This is great stuff Bryan, all development NGOs need to be doing this

    • Thanks Tobin! And it’s not just development NGOs who can benefit from finding new digital storytelling approaches like this to help bring their supporters closer to the work their donations are helping make happen – there is massive untapped potential for organisations working across all sorts of causes.

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