The $1 Million Charity Water Challenge

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

What would you do with a million dollars?

For me, the answer has never been about buying expensive and/or flashy toys.

For me, what I do with money is more or less what I try to do with every resource at my disposal:

Maximum impact.

Like a large segment of the developed world, I would very much like to make a million dollars.

So I can give it away.

I, alone, have very little chance of performing such a feat. Very few of us can. But together, it’s a completely different story. Together, we have so much power to change the world if we would only coordinate our resources.

So one of my current projects is the creation of just such a platform:

Following in the footsteps of such popular sites like TinyBuddha, DumbLittleMan, PickTheBrain, Addicted2Success, MindBodyGreen, all of which get multiple millions of visitors every month, my website:, is going to be open for community writers to contribute to.

With proper positioning and promotion, this website could join the ranks of the aforementioned sites.

With one crucial twist:

From the ad spaces on this site the revenue will go directly to charity.

Charity Water

uganda6In trying to pick a charity that aligns with my values as well as having the maximum impact possible, I’ve found Charity:Water to be a very fitting candidate.

I’ve only begun my travels of our blue-green sphere we all call home, and I’ve seen the amazing progress a country like Thailand has made over the last 2 decades, and how sister nation Cambodia has yet to take these same steps. Clean water is just one of the many issues facing modern Cambodians.

In total, nearly 1 billion people worldwide lack clean water. This is far more than just a health issue. If we want to give those in need a hand up: education, work, women’s rights – then water is a perfect place for investment.

And it really is an investment. For every $1 invested in improved water access and sanitation can yield up to $12 in economic returns.

Here’s how, according to Tim Ferriss, who did a water fundraising drive for his 36th birthday:

In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year (e.g. the entire annual workforce of France!) walking for water. Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking for miles to the nearest source. The solution? Installing simple water wells for clean water in strategically close locations.

Children can then spend more time in classrooms learning, and women can contribute to their communities with their minds instead of carrying jerry cans most of the day.

Clean water creates more capable problem solvers in places with persistent problems. If you want to empower people instead of doling out aid indefinitely, this is a powerful starting point.

If the altruistic aspect wasn’t enough, just consider: As a result of our collective action there will one day be millions of additional scientists, doctors, professors, and engineers bringing their collective intellect to bear on the challenges facing our world today and tomorrow.

So, now the question is how to raise funds. For that we’ll start by looking at a popular advice website that also makes decent coin.

Case Study:


The popular advice gets over 2 million monthy viewers, making it the perfect case study for our little experiment.

2 monthly visitors is a fair bit – but how much ad revenue could this actually generate?

Now, there are a ridiculous number of options for monetizing a website, but DLM has opted for pay-per-view advertising. That is, advertisers will pay a set rate for every 1000 people to visit the site and therefore see their ad.

Using the service, this is the breakdown of ad space and price:


It’s important to note that advertisers aren’t paying for the entire 2 million views, but a portion of them, and their ads will rotate amongst one another.

I can’t say whether or not all the ad space has been spoken for, but this at the very least will allow us to calculate a maximum possible revenue from this income source.

2 million views x ($2.99 + $1.99 + $1.99)/1000* = $13,940.00

*(remember, we must divide by 1000, as the price is per 1000 views)

$13,940 per month is some serious coin.

“But wait” I hear some doubters say, “That’s nowhere near a million bucks. What gives?”

No, it’s not, but such an income would total $1 million after a mere 6 years.

And remember, the million dollar mark is arbitrary, I choose it because it still has sex appeal and therefore could garner the interest of people. The important thing is that we’re helping real people who have no or limited access to water.

The website claims that “Just $30 can provide clean water for one person” – let’s see what that means concretely:

$13940/$30 = 464 people per month. That’s enormous.

And yes, I realize there are expenses for website hosting and that ads probably don’t get 100% sold out. But we’re looking at potential here. And this has a ton of potential. Even if the income was 50% of what it is, in terms of helping other people it seems to still be worth it, yeah?

But there’s a second option I’d like to layer on top of this one.

Case Study 2: TinyBuddha – A Community Book

tb book amazon In 2013 Lori Deschene of TinyBuddha colleted 40 stories from her website’s guest coontributors and turned them into the book: Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself – 40 Ways to Transform Your Inner Critic and Your Life.

Now, I can’t make income projections for this as the only data I have access to are the 56 customer reviews.

However, TinyBuddha has an even larger audience than DumbLittleMan and this has likely earned significant revenues since it’s time of publication.

Of course, Cracking is a significantly far way off from 4 million or so monthly visitors. But this is exactly why creating a book in the same style is a good idea.

Basic psychology dictates that we care about things we put work into – just look at the world famous example of Betty Crocker cake mix.

As recounted by Psychology Today, in the 1950s, General Mills released a new line of instant cake products under their Betty Crocker brand. Sales were abysmal. According to their research, this was because housewives felt guilty about not working hard enough in the kitchen.

So General Mills made the product less convenient, made household bakers everywhere add an egg on their own, and relaunched the line with huge success.

By creating a community-generated product, it will help increase the number of people who want to see the project succeed and will be willing to promote it.

Because let’s face it. This is an excellent idea. No thinking person would suggest that providing clean water for a billion of the world’s poorest is anything but.

The difficult part is overcoming the inertia and apathy we as a society have when it comes to social change.

And I am no way exempt from this. Up until I started this project, my net contributin to soial change has been pretty much zero (I volunteered at an event for victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but that’s the entire list).

We need to reach what Malcolm Gladwell calls “the tipping point” – the point at which an idea has enough mind share within a population to catch on.

Blogs and social media are a ripe opportunity to do this. But we need traction for the idea to catch and spread like a mind virus – of the positive variety. Like the way we can’t help but share videos of kitties and puppies playing together.

I’ve already started gathering content for this, so if you’re a writer and want to be published beside some living legends like Harleena Singh from Aha-now or Henri Junttila from WakeUpCloud then you’d better check out the writing guidelines here and submit your entry.

So, we’re off to a good start. Let’s look at one last example, of someone who has “been there, done that.”

Case Study 3: Tim Ferriss

c waterIn 2013 Tim Ferriss raised $107,292 in a Charity: Water campaign for his 36th birthday.

Now, this is a slightly different setup, as a fundraising campaign through Charity: Water directly has a 90 day time limit.

In 90 days our idealized DumbLittleMan scenario would make about $40,000. A healthy sum, but let’s face it, Tim crushed that number with his campaign.

Obviously, Tim has a lot of supporters and followers and was able to mobilize a ton of people to make this happen. He also added in a “bribe” of his own by offering a free round-the-world flight to one lucky supporter of the campaign.

So while I don’t have the coin or connections to offer such a prize, the way I look at this is that we only need 10 Tim Ferrisses in order to raise a million bucks.

Here’s what we could do:

Reach out to a bunch of people with a TF caliber of public support and get them behind the project. Doing good is sexy, and if a bunch of heavy-hitters know they’ll be surrounded with other heavy hitters (not risk their reputation, show “social proof” that the idea is good etc), they’re more likely to take part.

Have all these people provide 1 digital “bribe” for any person who donates. An ebook, interview, whatever. Some sort of premium content that can be hosted for free or cheap and downloaded.

As Derek Halpurn of Social Triggers has said, only offer the highest quality material in an offer. I’ve seen other initiatives that offer something like 150 ebooks at some crazy low price, but this dilutes the value of the best bits of those 150.

Then, to be super badass, we can outreach to 100s of others who have smaller but still significant followings. They could get a unique landing page (where they send their followers and nobody else sees) where they add their bonus/bribe to the offers of the A-listers, both preventing the A-listers offers from being diluted by 100s of other offers and giving these other indivuals a chance to be right along side the cream of the crop.

That is – incentive to participate and promote.

I can see this taking place after the first 2 case study examples have been implemented. Traction is difficult enough to get as it is. But with these first items of business in place, we can show some of the internet’s top influencers that this is an idea with traction, support, and has already gotten results.

How You Can Make A Difference

The second part of this campaign will take some putting together before it’s able to launch with impact, but the first part is effective immediately. I’ve never given $1 million away before, so some of these details will change as the project evolves. So far there are 5 ways to get involved:

    • Write an advice article for CTHC (click for details)
    • Share this page on social media
    • Follow CrackingTheHappinessCode
    • If you have an ebook or other download that you’d like to make available to donators, or want to otherwise be involved, contact me.
    • Link to this page from your blog!
    • Sign up for email updates to keep in touch


In the midst of a million blandtastic list posts reminding us to “stop caring what other people think” and that “you can do anything” that get a billion shares on social media but do nothing to actually change the state of the world, I’m here to challenge you to action.

Water changes everything. And we can change water:

Leave a comment with your thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

The following two tabs change content below.

AJ Walton

AJ Walton will show you how to travel the world on your budget, how to make money on the road, and why you don't have to live the way others expect. Get the free guide: 101 Ways To Make Money While Traveling

16 thoughts on “The $1 Million Charity Water Challenge”

  1. Hi AJ,

    This is a wonderful post. :)

    I admire your passion to help others and your earnest thoughts and efforts to make it happen. I could never think of raising such some of money, leave alone about earning it. But the $1 million charity would be something.

    Don’t take me negatively, but it’s no simple task reaching the ranks of those sites. I know because I’ve been trying, and it’s not only about quality and hard work – there is lots more that goes into making it all work. Some sites just pick up, nevertheless, spreading good word around and inspiring others too.

    Indeed water is one of the most important resources and it’s really sad to know all the stats you mentioned, especially that about 1 billion people worldwide lack clean water. I think its good to start small and helping a few people also isn’t bad. What Tim Ferriss could achieve is remarkable.

    I would be doing a few things you mentioned to get involved. I do not have any ebook or any other kind of product presently, so that won’t work for me. Now that you too are a part of the ABC, may be we can collectively come up with some more ideas and suggestions.

    Thank you for your kind thoughts and generosity. I appreciate all that you are doing. Happy weekend :)

    1. Thanks for the reply Harleena!

      The nice thing for me is that I have a wonderful job that I enjoy and that provides for me and I can devote my free time to such an ambitious undertaking. It won’t be easy, it won’t be fast, and maybe it will fail spectacularly – but any step in the right direction will be one worth taking.

      It’s great to be here and surrounded by people who I feel have a similar outlook in terms of creating value for others, I’m sure the mind meld will be very valuable.

      In any case, I’ll definitely keep you updated as the projet progresses. Thanks again for sharing your perspective.

    1. Hi Lea!

      Thanks for the kind words. I find it inspiring to have a big…ok massive…goal to shoot for. As for selflessness, I feel we’re only able to receive as much as we give. :)

      Have a great week!

  2. Hi Aj, That’s so nice of you to work for benefit of others. I feel guilty. I waste so many liters of clean tap water for daily activities such as brushing and I even sometimes just waste water where it wasn’t really necessary.

    It was heart breaking to know that 1 billion people lack clean water. So what we waste would be so precious for them. :( 😥

    I am definitely sharing the posts tho it is a very very small way to contribute. And I have also subscribed to stay tuned with your upcoming posts.

    I am glad that I came across this post. I am actually inspired by your thoughts of helping others. :)

    1. AJ Walton


      Hi Rohan! 😀

      I can’t thank you enough for the support of this project. Seriously, this would be completely impossible to do without the power of community action.

      The idea seems sound enough that I’ve had decent success finding personal development writers who want to contribute. The hard part is going to be getting enough *mind share* – reaching the “tipping point” where a critical mass of people rally around the idea so that when it launches, we reach our goal and don’t sputter out.

      This has been the thing most prominently weighing on my mind. So your support makes my spirits lighter.

      Fortunately, I’m built for large challenges 😀 Let’s do this!

  3. HI AJ,

    This is such a selfless act for a noble cause. Before I could go to your blog post, I had to read the comments.

    Let me wish you all the best, and you be surrounded with all the optimists around you. With the optimistic outlook that you have, this humungous number would be very much achievable by you within the time frame you have set for yourself.

    Ajay Pai recently posted…C-section! You are not a complete woman then.My Profile

    1. Ajay,
      I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful people. I am oft reminded of what Lori Deschene of TinyBuddha says: “this isn’t my website, it’s ours.” I feel the same way about this project.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your perspective!

  4. Hi Walton

    Much impressed to see you passion for helping others. Never knew before your that much involvlement in charity activites. Earlier finding you at my money blog I thought you are simply an enthusiastic entrepreneur working hard to build your business.

    But here I found a noble cause and that is why put the link of my green blog in website column as I am also a green activist and working in environment sector of Pakistan for the last twenty years. Do tell me if I can promote your cause at my blog.

    Thanks a lot for sharing.
    Mi Muba recently posted…Why you must buy organic chocolate to your kids?My Profile

    1. Hi Mi Muba,
      Guilty as charged for the enthusiastic entrepreneur working hard to build his business. I just happen to think that my path to doing this is through helping those who need it most.

      One difficulty I’ve had with this is deciding how open to be about the fact that I don’t “know” what I’m doing, I haven’t been-there, done-that. How will that affect support for such an ambitious undertaking?

      You have a green blog? Cool! I’ve only briefly popped over to check your “about” so far but I like your concepts of using Pinterest/Stumble upon to raise environmental awareness (and I’ve been thinking about how to do the same with this project). Is there a big environmental movement in Pakistan? I admittedly know little about the environmental challenges there, though I imagine in Karachi it’s similar to many megatropoli.

      Of course you may promote my our cause. I’m trying to come up with a badge or something for supporters to show on their site, as well as a page on this blog to link back – both out of appreciation and as social proof that people care about this! But I don’t do graphic design so I gotta get the concepts right before hiring someone.

      Thank you kindly for your response.

  5. Hi A.J.,

    I so admire your passion to help with this charity and I think that no matter how long it might take to raise the money you want, the work you’re putting into moving in that direction is worth it.

    Just remember that each of these sites started from scratch as well and had to work their way up to where they are right now. I’m sure it was no easy task for them either but their passion was to succeed and they’ll do what it takes.

    There are so many people in this world that don’t have what we do and that breaks my heart. I wish we could help them all but we can start with one charity at a time.

    Good luck with moving in that direction and I wish you all the best.

    Adrienne recently posted…Magical Monday: Traffic, Passion, Twitter, SSL Cert, GiveawayMy Profile

    1. Hi Adrienne!
      Thanks so much for stopping by, I know how busy you must be with your own site so that means a lot.

      Fortunately I have a long term vision for this. It’s not going to happen overnight, and even if it did – the actual concrete changes we want to produce wouldn’t. Every day I make sure I take at least 1 concrete step in the right direction. Right now that’s mainly in the form of outreach. It’s a lot to learn, and I must say that reading about your commenting approach was incredibly helpful. I’ve done alright with SEO traffic before now, but this is the first time I actually feel connection and momentum because of the human interaction – so a tip of the hat for that.

      Thanks for lending your voice to the conversation and being a part of my labor of love! 😀

  6. Hi AJ,

    This is my first time at your blog and it’s nice! :)

    This subject is touching for me because dealing with water is how I make my living. I boiler water to make steam. But it’s more to it than just boiling it we have to know where it comes from and know how to remove it’s impurities. We must know how it act in different states: solid, liquid and gas.

    In other words I look at water a little different than most people look at it. I have a relationship with it.

    Our Church have a ministry in Africa and we’re learning how they need schools, electric and water. This is something I most definitely wants to be a part of and I will share this with our Pastor too.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Vernon,

      Thanks for visiting – and for taking the time to join the discussion.

      Sounds like water plays a particularly important role in your life. I can imagine that relationship makes water issues mean something a bit extra for you. I admittedly have a difficult time understanding the gravity of the situation, but the farther I go with this the more appreciation and understanding I gain.

      Your Church is doing some important work too – it’s always encouraging to see other people, communities, and organizations working towards the same ends. Reminds me that we’re all in this together. If we can only coordinate our efforts, I believe we can make all the changes necessary t solve this and other social challenges.

      Thanks for being a part of the journey Vernon!

  7. Hi AJ,

    Wonderful initiative and a equally wonderful article with all the stats and figures.

    I am totally impressed by your humble nature and the urge to help the needy. Its definitely going to be difficult to reach your mile stone and that’s why most of us fail to even undertake action. But with the kind of spirit you are showing here will surely help you make it.

    It’s really sad indeed to see the big figure of 1 billion who do not have access to clean water. Will definitely spread the word and tweet about your great initiative.

    Though it’s kind of worthless at the moment, I just want to help you in some way even if it’s tiny bit.

    All the best
    Medha BN recently posted…The only guest blogging guide you will ever need to kill the dealMy Profile

    1. Hi Medha,
      To me, you’ve hit the crux of the matter. We want to help but feel powerless to do so.

      One of the reasons I chose $1 million and not something more “achievable” is because the only way to make any massive change is through collective action. I could raise $1,000 on my own – this I know. $10,000 would take a while but would be doable.

      $1 million though – not only would this help many thousands of people, but it’s also ambitious enough to get people to want to help. I feel that my role in this – more than anything, is to help empower people to do things they’re already perfectly capable of doing.

      So really, at this point nothing is more valuable than your being here and being involved. I see you Tweeted this article, which is awesome. This goal will *only* be achieved through a critical mass of mindshare, and you’ve just helped us along the way. For this, I am grateful.

      See you around on QueensQuill Medha!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge

Currently in Saint Petersburg , Russia

  • Get Exclusive Tips!

    Get exclusive travel tips and insights that I only share with my private newsletter subscribers.

  • Categories

  • Follow on Facebook!

  • Our Awesome Partners