Ep 85: Managing Rapid Growth – the Story of charity: water (with Lauren Letta)

by Joan Garry

charity: water’s growth and impact has been nothing short of remarkable. Here’s the story of how they scaled their organization.


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I (and many others) have long held up charity: water as a prime example of how a nonprofit does things the right way. Their growth and impact has been nothing short of remarkable.

But the actual story of how this organization grew so rapidly in the first place is fascinating, and a premier lesson for every nonprofit that wants to grow and scale. Especially when you consider that the org was founded in 2006 with $1,100 by a 31 year-old former nightclub promoter who knew nothing about nonprofits. charity: water has raised $360 million with a staff approaching 100.

And so I was so thrilled to invite Lauren Letta, the Chief Operating Officer of charity: water, to join me on the podcast. We discuss how to staff up, how to best approach hiring decisions, how to align values and create culture, and how a founder can scale an organization beyond a personal story.

About Lauren Letta

Lauren Letta is the Chief Operating Officer at charity: water. Departmental oversight is the crux of the COO role at any organization, but what makes Lauren’s role unique is the way she bridges seemingly disparate aspects of charity: water – from the engineering expertise of the water projects to the state-of-the-art technology used by website development and marketing teams – to work in tandem toward a single goal of bringing clean water to as many people as possible.

Lauren first joined charity: water in 2010 as a consultant, drawn in by the organization’s creative, startup-like approach to solving a humanitarian crisis. Since then, Lauren’s role has expanded to include overseeing major campaigns, special projects and production, and she has built a team and a culture that values excellence and remains as committed to its mission 12 years as it was on day one. Prior to joining charity: water, Lauren worked in fashion and events, managing global campaigns for brands like Warner Bros., Saks Fifth Avenue, and Swarovski. Outside the office, Lauren enjoys exploring the New York City pizza scene with her husband and young daughter.

In this episode

  • When it’s time for disruption and how it can inspire supporters
  • How to get the right people on the bus
  • How important are titles?
  • The value of humble confidence
  • Do you really need to formally restructure? When is it safe to do so?
  • Mirror mirror on the wall – what’s not working?
  • Why it’s important to make your recruiting process crystal clear
  • What does it mean to be a CEO/Founder and how to scale beyond a personal story?