WaterAid: The Big Dig

Exhibited by
Reuben Turner
September 30, 2014
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Capital Appeal
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

A very fine example of how storytelling, done right, can change the world. Isn’t the infographic just great? (SOFII loves the crossed legs). This campaign is fun, innovative, engaging, emotional (imagine how you’d feel with no toilet…) and highly effective as, inevitably, real storytelling in real time was bound to be. Altogether brilliant.

Creator / originator

WaterAid and The Good Agency

Summary / objectives

This fundraising and awareness campaign aimed to raise £1.2m and bring clean water to over 170,000 people in Malawi, thanks to UK government ‘aid match’ funding. In the end it raised over double its target and revolutionised the way WaterAid connected with its supporters and beneficiaries.


The Big Dig was a new departure in third sector storytelling. Online channels such as a blog and Instagram brought supporters much closer to two communities in Malawi. Supporters could follow the Big Dig appeal day by day – including when the borehole was dug and clean water arrived to great jubilation.

Special characteristics

The Big Dig is a first for the UK charity sector – digital has never before been combined with existing channels, such as direct mail, in this way, therefore, bringing supporters much closer to the people they help, improving the experience, deepening relationships and driving engagement. Digital was a continuous storytelling channel where WaterAid tested engagement tools using a paid-owned-earned platform strategy. It enabled the charity to tell timely, authentic, personal stories directly from the source. Local staff were trained in mobile blogging using Instagram – a strategic shift in how charities connect with communities and tell stories.

Influence / impact

Innovative mobile blogging direct from Malawi meant WaterAid supporters could see their support in action and meet the people they were helping, in real time.

They could meet people whose children were dying from lack of clean water. They could come together with them to change it, watching with them as a truck drilled the borehole and clean water came to change everyone’s lives forever.

As well as giving people a reason to donate, it gave them a reason to share and get closer to WaterAid by giving email and mobile data. 


The Big Dig was WaterAid’s most successful fundraising and awareness campaign for years.

This integrated campaign brought fundraising, communications and country programme teams together to raise £2,589,984 (including government matching) against a target of £1.2m and bring clean, safe water and sanitation to over 170,000 people in Malawi.

Digital channels including the Big Dig blog raised £75,000 directly, but also drove engagement and reach to increase the overall result.

  • The Big Dig reached over 1,500,000 Twitter accounts.
  • Over 350 Instagram images posted.
  • WaterAid Facebook and Twitter content was the most interacted with ever.


It is simple, The Big Dig will never be forgotten by WaterAid staff and supporters and the people in Malawi who saw their lives change and shared it with the world.

Other relevant information

The Big Dig on Facebook

The Big Dig on Instagram

The Big Dig on Twitter

The Big Dig website

The Big Dig blog