IrishTimes.com hosted an innovative fundraising campaign for Trócaire (the overseas development agency), highlighting awareness of unequal global access to clean water. Trócaire’s campaign focussed on Malawi, where drought and poor access to water characterise the majority of rural communities.

The campaign proved a huge success with our visitors, underlining the benefit for charities that engage online visitors with unique and creative sponsored content.

The campaign took the form of an interactive story, driving our visitors through different narratives based on their decision to donate or not. Readers could witness the positive effects of donating by clicking on one button. Conversely, clicking on a button and opting not to donate brought visitors through the difficulties encountered by villagers not getting their support.

Narrative content included videos, infographics, and slideshows.

For example, one story illustrated how Malawian women and girls are particularly affected by lack of clean water access. As with many duties, responsibility of water collection lies solely with female members of the community.

Without a water well, women and girls must walk to the nearest source each morning (frequently a shallow river), often enduring a three-hour queue. This directly affects their access to education as school starts at 8 a.m., in addition to health hazards generated by water filled with bacteria and disease.

We tested reader reaction to Trócaire’s campaign via the irishtimes.com reader panel. Operated in conjunction with our business partner, RAM, the panel is weighted to average daily Web site visitors. Response to the survey included 138 readers who had engaged with the interactive story, of which:

  • 86% agree the interactive story is a good initiative by Trócaire in highlighting issues of water shortage.

  • 78% strongly agreed the campaign is interesting. (Women were more likely than men to find it interesting.)

  • 47% agree they’re encouraged to donate having seen the campaign: In comparison, the average online charity advertisement in a United Kingdom- or Irish-based news media Web site will drive 16% of observers to express purchase interest (based on average scores of six charity sector Web ads tested on RAM’s software).

We solicited open feedback on the campaign. Our panel frequently mentioned how innovative and impactful it was:

“Makes sad reading but motivating to do something.”

“Excellent way to let people in Ireland see the actual daily struggle of families. Much more impact.”

“Harder now to come up with innovative charity appeal. I think it does the job.”

“Wonderfully innovative, bringing the lives of distant people closer to us.”

“Our daughter keeps comparing her life to the girl getting the water from miles away.”

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well these videos really bring the plight of these remote people home.”

“The story showed how development problems are deeply connected; e.g. water, education, and girls’/women's opportunities.”