Cubby Graham


Brooklyn, NY

Photo by Jonathan Bayme

Photo by Jonathan Bayme


SS: Tell us what you do and why you do it.

CG: Everyday I have the opportunity to work (@charitywater) alongside some of the smartest and most creative people I’ve ever met, with the vision of reinventing the way the world thinks about giving and a mission to help bring clean water to 663 million people in need.


As a member of the charity: water creative team, I’m responsible for our social media channels. Telling stories daily to create meaningful connections to the impact clean water has on people around the world and the community of supporters that help make it possible, inspiring a love for generosity, loyalty and advocacy.


I do it because I love telling beautiful stories and believe they have the power to change the world. Stories connect people to a deeper purpose and inspire them to be part of something bigger than themselves, because everyone should have access to clean and safe water.


SS: How did you get started in the industry?

CG: From a young age, I found myself really loving to be around people, and I’ve always been drawn to deep, diverse and meaningful stories. Growing up, my parents gave me a lot of opportunities to travel, including spending time in a few developing communities. It was during those trips that I first picked up a camera and fell in love with capturing photos and telling meaningful stories.


The more I did it, the more it brought me to life, the more I knew it was something I wanted to give my energy to. At the time, my current role at charity: water didn’t exist. Social media didn’t even exist. I just knew that individual stories mattered, and I loved seeing them move people to action, how generosity inspires generosity.


I first learned about charity: water in 2009 and fell in love with what they were doing, bringing people together, inspiring action through stories, and building trust through transparency. I ended up pledging my 25th birthday for clean water, asking people to donate my age in dollars instead of getting me gifts.


About a year later, I found myself with a rather large beard which led to my second campaign for charity: water. My friends and family had mixed feelings about my beard, so I decided to launch two campaigns and give people the opportunity to donate to either Save or Shave my beard. Whatever campaign raised the most for clean water would determine the fate of my face. Curious who won? See for yourself!

Shortly after my Save it or Shave it fundraising campaign, I moved to New York City and joined the charity: water creative team full time.


SS: The intersection between social media and social good is an interesting one. How has it evolved?

CG: Trust and transparency are really important to people. Yet 42% of Americans don’t trust charities. Building trust, loyalty and advocacy are also some of the biggest challenges brands face. But we believe social media is creating a really interesting landscape for people to share stories, build trust, and bring them even closer to the impact. At charity: water we're really passionate about using innovation and technology, and from the beginning charity: water made a bold promise to our community that 100% of every public donation would go directly to clean water. We choose to take it even a step further to show people the impact of their generosity through photos and GPS coordinates, reporting back to the donor exactly where their money went and how it was used. We believe through radical transparency, innovation, technology, and the power of storytelling we can help restore trust and bring clean water to people in need.


SS: Name three things that get your creative juices flowing.

CG: Fun music. Black coffee. People who start sentences with “What if…”


SS: The theme of this issue is "content." What's your take on content, specifically to brands who are trying to stand out in the digital age?

CG: It’s great to see more and more brands are witnessing the value in quality content and how important it is to invest in the identity of the brand. But good branding and content can only bring you so far. In addition to strong content, if your brand isn't building relationships and trust, you'll never cultivate loyalty or advocacy, especially with young people. Now more than ever, people are craving truthfulness and they're afraid of being taken advantage of. Therefore they question everything, and avoid anything that isn't authentic or relatable. Social media is an opportunity to give people a deep and meaningful connection to the people we love and the things that we care about, and content is simply a bridge between the two.

Photo by Evan Rummel

Photo by Evan Rummel


SS: What's your approach for social media content for charity: water?

CG: It’s important to us that our content has meaning and is rooted in deep and inspiring stories. Inspiration is really important to us. Traditionally non-profits have been known for turning on the sad music, moving the audience to tears, and using guilt to trigger your credit card. Sure it’s effective once or twice, but it doesn’t build advocates. Sadness and guilt aren’t feelings people subscribe to. But inspiration and focusing on telling stories of empowerment, opportunity, equality, and hope, inspire generosity time and time again. It’s one of the reasons we recently launched The Spring, a generous community of people who give monthly and subscribe to help change lives all year long, sending them unique updates and inspiring stories about how their recurring donations are being put to work around the world.

Our approach to content will always be to tell stories and make the work that’s happening on the other side of the planet feel a little closer, unpacking what it looks like to deliver clean water in an 8-part video series from Ethiopia, using virtual reality to transport our community into the life of a 12-year-old girl, and even bringing people behind the scenes on Snapchat.


SS: What's the best piece of advice you've ever given someone.

CG: Be brave. Be yourself.


SS: If you could switch lives with someone for a week, who would it be?

CG: Bob Goff, in hopes that even just the smallest amount of whimsy wonder, his love for people, and the way he sees the world would rub off on me.


SS: What's next for you? Or charity: water? Anything we should be on the lookout for?

CG: Right now we’ve got an exciting campaign that’s rolling out throughout the month of March and leading into World Water Day. It’s one of the most beautiful campaigns I think we’ve ever created, and we’re excited for people to experience it. Last October, we spent two weeks with 407 people in a community in Ethiopia. This March, we're sharing every one of their stories. The latest version of the site is now live, so you can start exploring the community and journey to Ethiopia!