From 2014 – 2020, Wheels4Water raised more than $1 million and helped more than 19,000 African people receive safe water, sanitation, and hygiene training. How did we do it? We combined our passion for making an impact with storytelling and networking and began fighting the global water crisis in tangible, lasting ways.
During one of our discovery trips to Eastern and Sub-Saharan Africa, we saw firsthand the devastating effects of unsafe drinking water on individuals, families, and communities. We were shocked to see how entire generations were affected by waterborne diseases and infection, with little support from the local government. The faces and stories stuck with us, we knew we had to do something. Upon returning home, we began brainstorming how we—a branding and creative agency—could make a difference.
We spent months looking at the variety of ways nonprofits raise awareness, activate people, create engagement, and increase donations through events. In this research, and with our experience of working with nonprofits over the last 20 years, we knew a true and authentic story that people can get behind and participate in some way would be key. Along the way, our research showed us the advantage a bicycle could be for those in these developing communities when it comes to fetching water. We wanted to combine the best of these ideas, our ability to tell stories, our passion to make a difference, and partnering with a great nonprofit as our path.
Our research gave us the idea of creating a fundraising bike ride where supporters could sponsor each mile we rode and participate by following us in person, virtually or socially. Our initial goal was to provide 1,000 Africans with safe water and sanitation resources. Along the way we created opportunities to filter our own drinking water from natural sources and spread the word about the need for safe water and sanitation. We hoped the ride would spark a movement for ordinary people to do what they could to raise awareness and funding for those in dire need of clean water—and it did . . . year after year!
We created an overall Wheels4Water logo and brand, making sure that each year this could be adapted to that year’s theme and the specific country it was supporting. This flexibility gives each new ride’s promotion and story a freshness and unique identity, which was vital as we traveled all over the country sharing the story and encouraging people to join the cause!
This flexible system applied to so many items, such as their website that could be customized and adjusted to reflect each year’s branding yet still maintain a visually aligned look from year to year. Other examples include our fundraising posters and jerseys.
Digital media has been integral to Wheel4Water’s storytelling strategy from the beginning. We use videos to show potential donors and advocates the reality of the world water crisis and solicit their support. We also created hundreds of social media assets to educate and inspire audiences to get involved.
Countries Served (Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda)
Africans received safe water, sanitation, and hygiene training
Each yearly ride also featured a fundraising custom jersey that promotes the cause, the supporters, and is designed to help keep riders safe on the road.
Over the six years of Wheels4Water, there were several activations that enhanced the overall reach and impact of this project. These live experiences included a variety of gallery shows that highlighted a sampling of the work, messaging, and impact created for the cause. Viewers would walk away with an understanding of how they could make an impact and gain a new perspective on the need for clean water. For several years, Wheels was the official social cause and part of the programming at various conferences. We developed programming that helped share with thousands the need to combat the world water crisis. We created campaigns for these conferences that included a variety of activities we developed at our custom booth installations, to conference social, all the way to the main stage. One of these activations included an immersive look at one girl’s journey to find water through a custom space design with pop-up banners and a 360º video experience.
Our work for Wheels4Water has been recognized by a number of publications and design organizations including the Webby Awards, Communication Arts, HOW Design, The White House—and Fast Company chose Wheels4Water as a World-Changing Idea.