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Sam Davidson's blog

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What Empowerment Looks Like

It's no secret that charity: water is one of the better branded nonprofits. But not only does the organization set the standard when it comes to the clever and clear way it markets itself; it also sets standards for honesty and transparency in the nonprofit world.

In fact, I've admired them for awhile, writing previously about how they thanked several donors personally in a video series (including me!). How's that for unique, personal, and interesting?

Once again, charity: water did not disappoint with this video from a few months ago, released right before the holidays when all that gift-asking begins.

This video (and most of what charity: water does) is all about empowerment. The organization empowers individuals who want to help by letting each person do what they're great at in order to raise money and awareness for an important cause.

You won't find CEOs or well-groomed spokespeople in this video. You'll just see regular people with an idea they care about, wanting badly to leverage it for the good of others. All charity: water does, then, is say "Yes!"

How does your organization empower its members?

If you're spending a lot of time telling people with ideas, "Yes, but you have to do it our way," or "No, that won't work. Choose from one of these ideas we always use," then you risk good people with clever ideas walking out the door.

When someone has an idea, a passion, and a plan, you as a leader need to let them run with it. Some ideas (especially those without plans) will fizzle and die and never come to fruition. But the upside of empowerment in this case is that you, the leader, aren't out a lot of time, effort, money, or energy. You empowered the person with the idea to see that idea through; you didn't claim it as your own.

Of course, this also means you'll need to share or deflect the glory, which can sometimes be difficult for a leader. But, charity: water gives us a perfect example, celebrating those who had ideas and energy to raise money.

This can shift your role somewhat as you become the "Chief Celebration Officer," championing others' efforts to make a difference. You'll hold the spotlight on them when they have success (because it will mean that you all, together, are now successful). But who doesn't want that outcome?

Bottom line: empowerment is built on trust, letting go, and encouragement. But if you can do these three things as a leader, your organization will be more vibrant, raise more money, and reach more people than ever before.

Who or what will you empower today?