Watsi is a global crowdfunding platform that enables anyone to donate as little as $5 to directly fund life-changing health care for people around the world.
From Phnom Penh to Port-au-Prince, we partner with hospitals and on-the-ground organizations that provide reliable health care to underserved populations in low-income countries. In order to be eligible for Watsi funding, patients must be afflicted with a condition that, if left untreated, will severely impact their standard of living. Treatments eligible for Watsi funding cost less than $1,500 USD, have a high probability of success, and are financially out-of-reach for the patient in need. In short, Watsi treatments are low-cost and high-impact.
100% transparency is one of our highest values – we maintain a Google Document, updated in real time – that details specifics of each patient case, from the financials to the treatment outcome, a screenshot of the funds transfer, and any other relevant information about that case. The document also shows Watsi’s monthly operational expenses, which lists the cost of everything from office supplies to plane tickets.
Watsi was founded on the belief that everyone in the world deserves health care. We have spent the past three years creating a donation platform that uses technology to connect donors to patients around the world who cannot afford the health care they need. Our mission is to fund life-changing health care by connecting people, and our vision is that everyone in the world will have access to health care.
We try to reach donors who want to contribute to patients’ health care, and patients who need the care. We’ve spent the past few years developing ways to find both, and creating a strategy for distributing our product.
We had to stand out. Bring in transparency and also individual giving (you can read the story and see the photo of the exact patient you’re donating to). This is awesome for the donor, and cool for the patient because (ideally) by telling their story we are bringing attention to and educating people on global issues
As we began building Watsi, we decided transparency would be one of our highest values. We live in a time when the public demands information, particularly when it comes to nonprofits. We wanted to be able to not only introduce patients to donors with photographs and stories, but also shine a light on the whole process behind getting care to that patient.
For the patient and our medical doctors on the ground, transparency means we can use data about Watsi patients to create a coherent “big picture” of what treatments patients need the most and where. Our vision is that the global health community can use this big picture understanding of what makes people sick to make better decisions in allocating funding and tackling the burden of disease around the world.
Additionally, we’re in the fortunate position of only having one goal as an organization: to provide life-changing health care to everyone. We have no conflicts of interest, no bottom line, and no competitors. In short, there was no reason why we shouldn’t be 100% transparent and share the work we were doing with everyone.
Radical transparency has been huge for Watsi. Our donors trust us because they can follow the dollars they donate and the patients whose lives they impact through the whole process. We’ve also found that by being 100% transparent, we’re actually crowdsourcing a lot of our work. Sometimes a donor will see a patient story on the transparency document and have follow-up questions about a specific patient outcome. They’ll email us and we’ll get back to them in 5 minutes. Having donors that look at our transparency document and are interested in actively participating in our day-to-day updates is amazing.
On the medical side, all Watsi patients are required to sign a legal waiver granting Watsi permission to publish their personal information online for the purpose of fundraising on their behalf. Watsi’s medical partners are responsible for explaining the waiver to patients in their native language and sending a signed copy to Watsi. Patients are usually happy to sign the waiver in exchange for a life-changing medical treatment. However, if patients do not want their story published – which can happen in cases that are more private in nature – we can fund them offline through our general fund.
To protect patient privacy, we adopted the least information necessary rule. The least information necessary rule means that we will only publish personal information about patients that is necessary for their profiles to be fully funded within a reasonable amount of time. For example, we only publish patients’ first names, because lack of a last name probably won’t preclude a profile from being funded.
Hints and tips
Radical transparency has been extremely beneficial to our operations and donor experience.
We’ve found that sharing both our successes and failures has yielded overwhelmingly positive responses from donors, both qualitative and quantitative. We believe many donors choose to donate to Watsi over other nonprofits because of our commitment to transparency, and our willingness to admit when we’ve made mistake.
We believe transparency can benefit other nonprofits in the same ways it has benefitted Watsi. It may not work in every context, and it may be challenging to implement, but even making some aspects of a nonprofit organization transparent yields enormous opportunities to tap into the power of the crowd and engage more with donors.