Water Charity Runs Cheaply at Gurals’ 200 Varick
Tom Acitelli Sept. 22, 2009, 8:02 a.m.
Scott Harrison, who just five years ago worked as a promoter of posh Manhattan nightclubs and bars, now promotes liquid of a different sort—water, specifically clean water, which one in six people around the world lives without. Mr. Harrison’s nonprofit organization Charity: Water, which develops clean drinking wells in Asia and Africa, signed a lease for 7,800 square feet at 200 Varick Street.
Born after a revelatory trip to Africa, Charity: Water fuses sexy marketing campaigns with an on-the-ground knowledge of development work. Through one of the organization’s most ingenious maneuvers, money from all new donors goes directly to projects in the field, with 500 core donors covering all administrative costs—a feat much aided by what building owner the Gural family calls a “deeply discounted rent.”
Mr. Harrison has developed a reputation for untraditional approaches to development work: ads that appear in such unlikely locales as Saks Fifth Avenue store windows, a Web site that allows even the smallest donation to be tracked to a specific impact (Google Earth–able G.P.S. coordinates and all), a “Twestival” of Twitter-based events. And with roughly $10 million from 50,000 donors, it seems to be working.
Donna Vogel of Newmark Knight Frank was the leasing agent for the building.