Small Monthly Water Bill Donations Sustain Local Charities
By Warren Tenney
In this season of gift giving, consider helping a less fortunate neighbor by making a donation through your city’s monthly water bill. It’s a simple way for a lot of people to automatically and directly contribute a small amount – usually a dollar or two a month - toward the wellbeing of local families. How residents can contribute is different for each city due to size, staff and software billing programs. Some cities encourage you to “round up” your bills and use the extra change as a donation or to check a box on a paper or an online bill. Some offer all three ways to give. Cities say their biggest challenge is making residents aware of this simple opportunity to provide sustainable funds for good causes.
In 2006, City of Scottsdale Water customers donated $200,000 toward Scottsdale Cares charities. Then donations fell off. Three years ago, Scottsdale Cares had only $100,000 to fund about $400,000 in requests. That’s when staff in the city’s Community Assistance Office decided it was time to take action and increase awareness of the program. This team updated the Scottsdale Cares website with a PayPal option and video and created a new marketing campaign. They began attending city-sponsored events where they talked about the program, handed out information and received donations. It paid off. This fiscal year Scottsdale Cares raised $180,000 in donations to fund 13 programs, including Aid to Adoption of Special Kids, Concerned Citizens for Community Health, and Teen Lifeline. Next year, Scottsdale Cares reports it will have at least $150,000 to allocate to non-profit agencies that provide for the city’s most vulnerable families. The team will continue to push until they reach their goal: an annual and sustainable $200,000.
The Town of Gilbert also is making a new push to aid its Neighbor 2 Neighbor charities. Gilbert never had the software system that allowed customers to check a box on their paper bill to contribute to the town’s Neighbor 2 Neighbor program. In 2010, the Town began letting customers know they could voluntarily attach a $1 to $10 donation to water utility bills to help fund local families in need. Gilbert sent messages in water bills, the Town’s councilmembers worked on information campaigns, and staff members marketed the option through the city’s website. Despite these efforts, the response from residents was weak. By February 2016, less than 500 customers contributed $1,300 a month. Then Gilbert had a break through. The Town opted to wave a $200 deposit fee for new water customers who signed up to pay their monthly bill via the town’s paperless Autopay program. The incentive draws 400 to 500 new customers a month to Gilbert’s direct pay sight where they have the clear option of checking a box to donate to the Neighbor 2 Neighbor charities as part of their bill. More than 50 new customers each month are deciding to donate. Last month, 1,608 customers were donating $3,200 every month. Boosted by this success, Gilbert’s Community Resources Department staff members are working on new and easier ways for established customers to donate.
Maybe this would be a good day to check your city’s website and find out if you could assist with a small monthly commitment of your own.
For 48 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.