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Case study: Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP)

Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) is a unique organisation – a partnership that brings together the expertise of business, NGOs and academia to deliver drinking water and sanitation services to the poorest people living in cities in the developing world.

In 2013 WSUP approached =mc for help to identify new funding sources and to make firm recommendations on where it should focus its comparatively limited fundraising resources.

About WSUP

WSUP works by encouraging both private and public water and sanitation companies to see the poor as consumers who can and will pay for effective services. By helping these companies to deliver commercially viable services they create a sustainable solution to one of the biggest urban challenges in the world.

The opportunity – and the challenge

WSUP is a lean organisation that punches above its weight in terms of service delivery. In 2013 this was recognised by the Department for International Development which awarded WSUP significant funding over three years, alongside existing grants from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and, among others, the US government. This was the impetus WSUP needed to look at how it could achieve a transformation in its fundraising to reach even more people in the most desperate need. Paul Gunstensen, Head of Funding, takes up the story. “We asked =mc to help us identify new funding sources. We have relatively small fundraising resources so we wanted to be absolutely sure we were focusing on the right choices to deliver the results we needed. We actually got much more than that.”

The solution

WSUP had identified that it needed a more diverse funding base to underpin the necessary expansion of its work and ambitions. =mc’s detailed analysis of its existing and potential funding sources showed that WSUP was successfully attracting resources from most of the key – largely institutional – funders in the development space. However, what was missing was a powerful, engaging case for support for potential new supporters from different sources – and in particular those without a technical understanding of the WSUP’s work. So =mc worked with stakeholders from across the organisation in a workshop setting to explore how WSUP could tell its story through the eyes of the people whose lives are transformed by its work. The result was a living, visceral, case for support, better positioned for the new market and focusing on the powerful story behind the work on the ground.

The result

Back to Paul: “It’s early days, but we now have a case for support that both our existing supporters and potential new donors are responding to very positively. It has helped us refocus our organisational style in how we talk about our work. We’ve changed the language we use and are having better conversations – and having them faster. We’re confident that funding will follow.”

“=mc provided both the insight and the practical tool we needed – a radical new case for support – to move our fundraising forward. The workshop process used to create the case was especially significant in helping us reframe our external communications approach, to use stories rather than the technical detail of our work. =mc knows when to challenge and when to listen. We’ve enjoyed working with them!”

Paul Gunstensen, Head of Funding, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor

Visit the WSUP website

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