055: The Story Behind One of the World’s Biggest Charities (Scott Harrison)

Scott Harrison

Do you wish you were doing something more fulfilling with your life? Or maybe you want to make more of a difference right where you’re at. If so, then you’ll want to listen to today’s show and our guest, Scott Harrison.

Scott is the CEO and Founder of charity: water, a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring clean drinking water to every person on the planet, but he started out as a club promoter. His is a story of incredible transformation. Join us as we talk about all of this and more on the 55th edition of How’d You Get Into That?.


Scott grew up as an only child in a strict, conservative Christian family. Later, through a band he was in, he stumbled into night life…as a career. At 18, he moved to New York City and took up club promotion. He basically got paid to get his friends drunk. The more he partied, the higher he was paid!

It was a glamorous lifestyle of glitz, Rolex watches, private jets and flowing champagne. He enjoyed it, but admits that at some point along the way he started thinking about how his tombstone was going to read. Then, one New Year’s Eve he was on a trip to Uruguay to throw a huge bash with his friends. They rented servants, horses…the whole bit. Walking around drunk and high, he realized he had been up for 24 hours and the party was still going. Suddenly, he just wanted the party to stop. He was tired of it all.

Even though he wasn’t living it, Scott says he never really completely abandoned his Christian faith. Sometime after the trip to Uruguay, he picked up a book called The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and read it cover to cover. After 10 decadent years as a club promoter, Scott admitted to himself that he wanted to live a life of integrity, meaning and purpose.


  • Why the jetset lifestyle was unfulfilling for Scott.
  • How Scott connected the dots between club promotion and non-profit work.
  • The single most important factor to getting your message out there.
  • Scott is reinventing the way charity is done, he explains how.
  • How to donate your birthday to charity: water
  • And so much more!

It took a little time for him to unplug from it all. Eventually he made a deal with God that he would tithe back 1/10th of the time he spent as a club promoter – one whole year – to go serve the poor. He applied to various humanitarian organizations, but nobody would accept him! Finally, an organization called Mercy Ships told him he could join their mission if he paid them $500 a month. He was in.

So in 2004, he left the streets of NYC for the shores of West Africa. As he walked up the gangway and onto the ship, he was also walking into a new life. But nothing could have prepared him for what he saw. Extreme poverty and thousands of sick people without even the most basic acceptable living conditions, including access to clean water. Scott’s heart broke for these people.

During his time with Mercy Ships he started a blog about the mission so people back home could see what he was seeing. One of the things he noticed was how unsanitary their living conditions were, and how that contributed to their conditions. That’s when the idea hit him to focus on clean water. How would life be better for these people if they just had access to clean water?

Meanwhile, he kept sharing stories through his blog and his 15,000+ email list. This is when Scott learned the real power of storytelling. He was able to move people to compassion and generosity through story after story. Some people on his list asked to be taken off, but many were changed, and some even volunteered.

After his last tour with Mercy Ships, Scott realized this was his chance to get working on his idea of improving the water situation for these folks. He developed a vision of a world where every man, woman and child has access to clean water.

But he also wanted to reinvent the way charity was done. So many people have questions about where their money goes when they give, so he decided to create a model where 100% of donations go to fund the mission. This required him to set up a 2nd organization that would fund the overhead and expenses of running the charity.

And he’s been successful in doing so. Charity : Water to date has funded over 13,000 water projects, which have brought clean drinking water to millions of people in 22 different countries around the world. And Scott says storytelling has been at the heart of their success, and the charity’s ability to overcome financial hurdles along the way.

If you would like to see who is already involved in charity water, or if you would like to get involved yourself, see the link to their website in the Resources section below.

Please join me in thanking Scott for sharing his story so candidly and gracing us with his knowledge and insightstoday. Thanks for being here and we’ll see you next time!

Tweetable: “You can’t have enough grit and determination.” Scott Harrison


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