Toilet twinning to flush away poverty

UK-based charities Cord and Tearfund have teamed together to create toilet twinning, a fundraising and awareness raising initiative. It aims to help tackle disease caused by poor sanitation by pairing up first world loos with latrines in developing countries.

For £60 anyone can twin their loo with a latrine that Tearfund or Cord have built in Bangladesh, Burundi, Sierra Leone, the Congo or Cambodia. The charities use the money raised to build more latrines, helping provide more people with access to better sanitation and cleaner water. The giver gets a framed certificate to put on his/her loo door, plus the GPS coordinates of the twinned latrine to look up on Google Maps.

toilet twinning from Cord and TearfuncIt’s an amazingly simple idea that takes a serious issue and tackles it in a fun way. Toilet twinning plays upon people’s curiosity – how do other people live around the world? It’s also a badge of generosity on the ‘latrine’ door of whoever donates the £60; be it an organisation twinning their gents’ or an individual twinning his or her bathroom to show off charitable credentials. But even if the motivation is peer point-scoring rather than genuine compassion, it’s worth excusing for such a good cause!

Like guerrilla marketing, toilet twinning is unexpected and unconventional – imaginative yet low budget. It’s a far cry from guilt-inducing ads showing children starving and helpless. I don’t want to criticise charities or their marketing as I have a huge respect for what they do, but repeated exposure to such shocking images can create a feeling of hopelessness that is as likely to lead to apathy as to inspire compassionate giving. Or worse still, desensitise us to the point that the pictures no longer shock us, stir us or motivate us to act.

Toilet twinning, on the other hand, focuses on the practical and makes you reflect whilst you, er, have a couple of minutes to spare. Because it’s so different you want to pay attention, plus your guard is (literally?) down. As some money has already been raised for the charity by twinning the toilets, you can read the sign guilt-free – any extra extra donations are a bonus. In this way, it may prove itself to be more effective than an advert.

The call to action is implied rather than stated, but it’s very simple – twin your own loo! It’s similar to ‘adopt an animal’ in a zoo, but better in that having the picture on the back of your loo door gives you a frequent reminder of the donation. It keeps the cause front of mind rather than only being thought about a couple of times a year thanks to a newsletter update. Toilet twinning is personalised and gives the giver something of value.

As with any guerilla-marketing type activity, this form of charity fundraising needs visibility to reach the scale needed for snowballing donations. With this in mind, fancy twinning your toilet?


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