The Global Water Crisis:
How to Provide Access to Clean Water Around the World

with James Leitner, Founder & Executive Director of MissionCleanWater



Not having ever been a member of a community that lacks easy access to clean water, in fundraising for his nonprofit MissionCleanWater, James Leitner wanted to ensure a positive, consensual representation of the communities he was seeking to aid in his work. 

Rather than painting a portrait to create sympathy for these people, James strives to showcase the incredible journeys that members of these communities go on to access clean water every day. As James is an endurance runner, this has led him to develop some unique fundraising strategies that we delve into in-depth in today’s conversation, such as running a marathon a month for 12 months and running 30 miles a day for 30 days, a particular fundraiser that James was in the middle of upon our recording this conversation.

James grew up in suburban New Jersey, an area where you don’t have to think about clean water; it’s just there. Once he learned in high school that over one billion people around the world don’t have this easy access that he used to take for granted, he sought to gain hands-on experience in the global water space. After spending time with professors in college who had experience in this space, he created the nonprofit MissionCleanWater, an organization working to provide clean water and sanitation to under-served communities.


In July 2020, Founder James ran 30 miles a day for 30 days in an effort to raise funds for a clean water and hygiene solution for the St. Elizabeth’s All-Girls School in Uganda

His team focuses on how 60% of all clean water projects in Africa have failed; this happens because while these projects are engineered beautifully, the communities are not taught or engaged properly on how to maintain them. This is why MissionCleanWater specializes in community engagement, aiming to develop new models that are oriented toward developing sustainable success within each specific community they work with. 

Specializing in the grassroots organization level, they are able to partner with each community to develop potential solutions for issues in the community beyond access to clean water, such as utilizing fees collected to maintain a clean water source to finance a microloan program to create additional economic growth.

Today’s conversation focuses on two main topics: how MissionCleanWater developed this particular approach to funding clean water projects around the world to address the global water crisis and how James has utilized his passion for endurance running to develop unique fundraising strategies for MissionCleanWater.

Founder James with MissionCleanWater project manager, Andrew Auruku.

“You need to be transparent with your donors and not be afraid to share your story. Don’t be afraid to share the very successful moments that you’ve had, and don’t be afraid to share the very sad and hard moments that you have.” -James Leitner

Topics Discussed: 

  • How to improve clean water access globally
  • MissionCleanWater’s grassroots approach to sustainable solutions
  • James’ background as an endurance runner and how it has influenced his work
  • Unique nonprofit fundraising strategies
  • James’ neutral stance in the running shoe argument

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