February 13, 2019

Persado, charity: water Author Powerful Story

Nearly one in 10 people — 663 million people — live without clean and safe drinking water. That’s twice the population of the United States. charity: water is on a mission to fix this crisis and reinvent charity for a new generation.

Donors play a huge part in helping charity: water provide people with this basic human need. Through the support of donors, they’ve funded more than 35,000 water projects across the world, bringing clean water to communities in need. Recruiting more monthly donors will bring charity: water and the communities they serve closer to solving the global water crisis.

Many of charity: water’s donors are Millennials, and therefore, Facebook advertising has been an integral part of their acquisition strategy. They are constantly testing different iterations of imagery, messaging and calls-to-action to find what best engages their audiences. Though this trial-and-error approach has yielded moderate improvements in engagement, they’ve struggled to learn exactly what story and messaging resonates most with new audiences.

Related: How Persado’s AI helped clean water charity take ‘trial-and-error’ out of Facebook ads via The Drum

Enter Persado

charity: water wanted to increase their donor base and engagement, but not without answering an important question: “Why?” They wanted to know what inspires people to become donors. What about a specific story was inspiring someone to join the mission to give all humans access to clean and safe drinking water? They began using Persado’s AI technology, which not only drives results but delivers deep insights into the “how” and “why” behind those outcomes, to experiment and learn at a greater scale.

What Happened:
Artificial Intelligence + Narrative Intelligence Find (And Tell) the Story

Charity Water messaging variations
charity: water used The Persado Message Machine to generate 16 Facebook ads across 1,024 permutations spanning a range of the non-profit’s core brand narratives: community, transparency and mission. This approach allowed them to pinpoint precisely which stories were the most powerful for different age segments and genders.

“Together we’re unstoppable” was more powerful than phrases like, “help us make history” and “end the water crisis of our time,” which are a part of charity: water’s mission statement. The sense of community drew people in, perhaps not surprising as developing a community on social media is huge for brands right now — they’re even creating Facebook groups to foster loyalty rather than simply relying on ads to do the trick in garnering conversions.  Also, language evoking the emotion Encouragement outperformed imperative language in charity: water’s control.

Imagery had the most significant impact on engagement for charity: water. The close-up image of the woman resonated most across all audiences tested, the mother-and-daughter worked best with women and the 1% audience look alike. Emotional language was the second biggest contributor. Encouragement phrases like, “We need your help” outperformed phrases like “A call-to-action,” which conveys Anxiety, a historically top-performing emotion across industries and regions. Remember: This won’t be the same across the board. Best practices aren’t necessarily what’s best for your brand. It’s important to experiment and find what your audience wants to supercharge growth.


“Growth matters for charity: water,” explained Scott Harrison, CEO and Founder of charity: water. The more we grow, the more people we can help. The work that we’ve done with Persado has allowed us to understand what messages resonate most with our audience and has enabled us to scale those learnings across platforms and even internationally to help us grow.”

charity: water plans to continue using insights generated by Persado more broadly across Facebook and hopes to run more experiments in the future.


Persado helped kickstart a new era of testing at charity: water, helping us discover in a very data-driven way what aspects of our vision inspire donors the most, and how we can use the right words and imagery to connect more strongly with different audiences.”

– Jason Keramidas, Chief Product Officer

Related Articles