This Nonprofit Raised 80X Its Original Investment Using Venmo

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Venmo users may have seen ads for the nonprofit disguised as small payments recently. - Deutsch New York
Venmo users may have seen ads for the nonprofit disguised as small payments recently. – Deutsch New York

Nonprofits operate on lean staff and shoestring-sized budgets. With that said, advertising for nonprofits can be difficult if there is little operating capital to utilize when raising funds for a cause. It can be even more difficult if there is a limited network of donors to lean on for support when trying to spread the word to other like-minded donors. On July 4th, however, Water is Life, a charity that seeks to provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene programs to save lives, ran an awareness campaign that reached a significant amount of target donors at the cost of $10.


Water is Life Dubbed Their Campaign As A “Venmo Micro Hack” Without Actually Hacking

Water is Life found a loophole in Venmo, a peer-to-peer mobile app that lets you easily make and share payments, and dubbed their mini-campaign the “Venmo Micro Hack.” Here is how they raised $800 and counting using only $10.

They Saw An Opportunity: Venmo is where you can find a large number of millennials.

As an active user, Venmo is a great way to send money to friends after sharing a meal, grabbing drinks or paying monthly shared living expenses. Catering to millennials, the mobile money-sending app also sends money instantly, and for free.

In January 2016 alone, Venmo saw over $1 billion in payments made on the app. Year-over-year, that’s two-and-half times of growth and over 10x the volume in January 2014. Even though Venmo hasn’t shared their total number of users and keeping in mind the app’s maximum transfer balance is only $3,000, it’s safe to say there is a significant amount of users on the app that are active.

They Found A Silver Lining: Venmo shows friends-of-friends payments on users feed and also doesn’t limit payment caption character count.

If Water is Life’s goal for their campaign was to get micro-donations and targeting millennials, Venmo was going to be the best vessel to reach their goal. The only catch to their idea was that Venmo doesn’t use sponsored advertisements on their app. Water is Life did, however, find a silver lining to this problem. The charity found that doesn’t limit character count. And, like any social sharing app, Venmo’s money-sharing app has a “Public” feed where all users see notifications of payments being sent and received real-time. Additionally, user’s “Friends” feed is also where you can see your friends-of-friends payment transactions.

So on July 4th, a high-traffic day for the app, where users were paying their friends for anything ranging from pizza to beer during the day’s festivities, Water is Life sent a $0.01 payment to the payer with a 2,000 character relatable caption that read: “1 cent can’t pay someone back for a beer, but it helps buy someone clean water for a day.” Each targeted ad ended with a fact and a call-to-action and a direct link to pay the charity without having to leave the app.

They Got Their Results: Water is Life Raised 80 Times Its Original Investment

Over the course of 1 day, Water is Life sent out 1,000 targeted ads using only $10. As a result, the charity has since raised $800. Since then, the charity then launched their experience as a YouTube Ad and plans to double its funds in the coming days.


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