Michael Birch’s WaterForward Is “Kind of a Chain Letter Pyramid Scheme” For Charity

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Michael Birch, the founder of Bebo and now CEO of startup lab Monkey Inferno, wants to raise millions of dollars for Charity:Water using social networks and viral loops. His latest project is WaterForward, a non=profit which he describes as “kind of a chain letter pyramid scheme” applied to charity. In the video interview above, he explains that “it is very easy to like a charity,” but getting people to give is much harder. And that is what WaterForward is designed to do.

The WaterForward concept is simple. It is a way to pay charity forward to your friends. You can donate $10 on behalf a friend, or multiple friends, and their name and picture gets placed in the online WaterForward book. The only way to get in the book is if someone puts you there by donating on your behalf. Once you are placed in the book, you are encouraged to pay it forward to someone else. The site imports your Facebook and Twitter friends to make it easy. (You can also donate on behalf of people you don’t know who might want to participate but are still waiting for someone to put them in the book).

If this sounds a little like the Million Dollar Homepage that may be because it was designed by Alex Tew, the guy who created the Million Dollar Homepage in 2005. Now, it’s for a good cause. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go towards Charity:Water projects, which typically involve building wells in villages around the world for the estimated 1 billion people without easy access to fresh water.

WaterForward launched a couple weeks ago, and so far has raised just over $150,000 with no marketing. “I feel there is an inflection pont we haven’t quite reached,” says Birch. Once you pay it forward, you can see your total impact of how many people are in the book because of you. And if some of your friends haven’t paid it forward themselves, you can nudge them through the site. It’s a slow start, but once this goes viral, it could end up raising a ton of money for Charity: Water.