WaterAid's Big Dig Appeal raises over £2.2m!

Charity uses blogging and Instagram to bring supporters closer to communities in Malawi.


6 Nov 2012 | Malawi

Mary collects waterWaterAid has raised £2.25 million to improve access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in Malawi through an innovative appeal, The Big Dig, smashing its original fundraising target by more than £1 million.

Launched in June, The Big Dig aimed to raise £1.2 million to transform lives in some of the poorest communities in rural Malawi, with every pound donated by the public matched by the UK Government from the aid budget.

The Big Dig also offered a unique opportunity for the public to follow WaterAid's progress in Malawi, and to see exactly where their money went. The Big Dig blog brought supporters closer to WaterAid's work, giving them the chance to hear directly from community members and project staff in two villages – Bokola and Kaniche – finding out what life is like without clean water or sanitation, and seeing change happening in real time.

The photo-sharing social network Instagram played a key role in the ground-breaking digital project, with two WaterAid project staff, Michael Kalane and Nathan Chiwoko, using smartphones to document the challenges and changes in the communities, via the @thebigdig account. Teams across the charity – both in the UK and Malawi – worked together to gather the latest news from the communities.

The appeal culminated with the drilling of boreholes in Bokola and Kaniche, bringing communities safe water for the first time. Supporters were able to watch a film of the drilling process – and the celebrations – on the blog. Marcus Missen, Director of Communications and Fundraising at WaterAid, said: "We have been overwhelmed by our supporters' response to The Big Dig. To raise over £1 million more than our initial target is truly incredible.

"The appeal also gave us an exciting chance to use digital channels to really connect our supporters with the communities they are helping through our blog and Instagram updates - we think WaterAid is one of the first charities to use Instagram to share stories from the field with our supporters. It was a real team effort, involving everyone from communications and fundraising staff in the UK to our project staff in Malawi and, of course, the community members themselves.

"Most importantly, thanks to the public's generosity, we’ll be able to transform hundreds of thousands of lives in Malawi with safe water, sanitation and hygiene."

The appeal was backed by a host of celebrities, including Camilla Dallerup, Rachel Stevens, Lorraine Kelly, Hugh Bonneville and Denise Van Outen.

Supporters who donated by text message were also able to experience a unique 'thank you', with the opportunity to hear a specially recorded voicemail message from one of The Big Dig's celebrity supporters.

The messages, set up by CleverVoice, proved popular, with as many as 30% of people choosing to listen to messages of thanks.

To see the changes brought about by The Big Dig in Bokola and Kaniche, go to