Giving Water for Christmas

Boxing Clever Campaign Helps Drive Fund-raising for Freshwater Wells

By Published on .

With Americans spending an average $450 billion a year on Christmas, one group decided to try to divert some of that to the world's needy. Boxing Clever, a St. Louis-based advertising and digital agency, took on the cause and added a communication strategy to build a bigger movement and drive donations. Jim Harper, creative and director of business development, explains.

America spends an average of $450 billion a year on Christmas. But for all the agonizing we do over what to buy, about 40% of us take back at least one holiday gift. And more than 50% of us are still paying off last year's gifts when the holidays come around again. Lots of us say we'd like the holidays to focus less on commercialism and more on the spirit of giving. But it took a group of pastors to get a movement started.

The movement, called Advent Conspiracy, began in 2006. The pastors decided that it was time to reclaim Christmas, a once spiritual event now overtaken by media and mall madness. If people could buy just one fewer gift and spend that gift money on families with basic living needs, the real meaning of Christmas could live again. Advent Conspiracy didn't have to look far to find a needy cause.

Around the world, 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water, and 1.8 million people die every year from waterborne illnesses. That includes 3,900 children each day. Solving this problem is relatively inexpensive and saves lives in undeveloped countries. It only requires drilling freshwater wells.

So Advent Conspiracy partnered with Living Water International, and the movement took off with flying colors. But it needed increased awareness. An effective cause-marketing campaign was the next step. Boxing Clever, the advertising agency that I work for, came in and gave the movement significant momentum by redesigning Advent Conspiracy. Led by Creative Director Chris Kilcullen, the Boxing Clever interactive team created a new visual identity and an online hub,, that became its own marketing tool.

In order to reach out to a broader audience, Advent Conspiracy needed a simple but effective way to spread the word and make it easy for people to get involved. Central to our creative execution was the ability to put the power of fundraising into the hands of each and every site visitor. By providing downloadable materials directly on the site, organizations and individuals can now port a fund-raising program directly into their communities. They can also feel part of a larger movement by coming back and sharing their stories on the community blog, posting photos and tagging themselves via location markers on a world map.

Much of the success of the redesign is due to leveraging and displaying content posted on social networking outlets such as YouTube, Flickr, MySpace and Facebook and porting that content back into the Advent Conspiracy Web site. When people see their connection to the movement and witness its growth in real time, it becomes contagious and inspiring. Boxing Clever designed this online marketing tool so that it can spread like wild fire around the world.

Churches and local organizations that want to be involved can do so by getting tips and resources on the Advent Conspiracy website. There are downloadable brochures, logos, videos, a press release template, posters and podcasts.

A church in Tulsa, Okla., got involved and was blown away from the response it got from the community. It collected nearly $27,500, which will be used to drill five clean water wells in Guatemala through Living Water International.

Overall, the online-driven fund-raising campaign has been a huge success so far, circulating in more than 13 countries and raising more than $1.5 million for freshwater wells. The Advent Conspiracy website has garnered more than 1.6 million visitors, and its viral video is closing in on 1 million views. Best of all, there are no stacks of gift returns. Instead, there's a refreshing swell of excitement in the realization that people can spend less, give more and make a difference in others' lives.

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