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The one thing you need to focus on above all else is transparency and preventing scams. Video of the actual person who needs the treatment would go a long way, as would video updates along the way. I'm thinking an Android app that the locals could use to document the process.

If you solve that properly, this will really take off and do a lot of good.

Also, you're going to eventually need to take a very small cut of the donations to pay living expenses for your volunteers. 100% to the patient sounds great, but for my donation, I'd prefer to know that there is someone dedicated full-time to the cause and overseeing the process, and receiving a reasonable salary for it. Of course, be 100% transparent about those salaries as well.




I don't think we need video of the process. If the people want to do it fine, but making them put on a show of themselves I think is a bit much. As a person, not only are you sick and need help from others but you need to be a documentary just to prove to people you aren't a scam, little much -- it's one thing to have a photo and story so it makes it real but as long as there is some trusted third party verification, I think that's enough. There are actually charities that have been doing this sort of thing longer than most of us have been alive that have figured this out, good idea to learn from them.


I really like that you brought up third-party verification. We think that's the most efficient and responsible way to scale our due-diligence process. Currently, in addition to being verified by us, all of our partners have been verified by multiple third parties (Partners in Health, Givewell, CNN, ABC, HBO, etc.) and they are all 501(c)(3) organizations which means that they are also overseen by the US Gov.

I agree that learning from other charities is the best way to evolve. Kiva has a pretty awesome due diligence process that we would like to pick and choose elements from as we grow: http://www.kiva.org/about/risk/kiva-role


> they are all 501(c)(3) organizations which means that they are also overseen by the US Gov.

The US govt does not do significant oversight of 501(c)(3) organizations. They don't care at all about effectiveness.


Like Kiva, it would be good to also list the "sponsor" (read: 501(c)(3) name) on the patient's profile/donation page. If that sponsor name also included a link to a basic sponsor profile page showing further sponsor information, that would be a step in the transparency direction for me. I'm hesitant to donate until I see which charity is sponsoring the person who needs treatment.

EDIT: I dug through the pages and found a link to a Google Spreadsheet doc with basic information regarding the sponsor for each patient. This is one area I would definitely improve into a sponsor link on each patient's donations page. But all-in-all, great stuff!!


Thanks! The Google Doc could definitely use some improvement, but for now it seems to do the job.

Did you get a chance to click on the Medical Partner link on the patient profiles? It opens a lightbox with some info on the partner.

But we'd love to have more robust pages with tons of awesome info (map, financials, photos, data, etc.) for each Medical Partner. We just need to raise the money to pay for the quality dev time we need!


Can you tell me more about the GiveWell verification?


GiveWell selected our first Medical Partner, Nyaya Health, as being in the top 1% of all non-profits with regard to transparency and accountability. http://blog.nyayahealth.org/2011/12/10/nyayahealth1/


The advantage of sharing the individuals' stories is not only for preventing scammers. Connecting with recipients would be hugely motivating for your donor base. DonorsChoose.org is an excellent example of an online charity that built a scalable feedback loop into its donation process (I ran marketing there for a few years). At DonorsChoose.org, donors fund teachers' projects, and then teachers submit pictures online of the project taking place in the classroom. It brings donors back over and over again.


Great points. Transparency is huge, and we have done everything possible to put as much info on our site as we can. We love the app idea, and building an app for the MP's to document the entire process (patient work up, waiver, profile info, provide updates, track recovery, etc.) as easily as possible is one of our next steps.

We definitely need to make some money to keep this thing going. But right now we are still just looking for proof of concept. If we fund these treatments, then our goal is to go out and raise money to really expand the organization. We have tons of financial sustainability ideas, a few are:

1) a "tip" jar where donors can add to their donation to cover overhead 2) Grants and competitions 3) Co-branded CSR programs for companies

Hope that helps to answer your questions!


Your operation could maintain 2 sets of cash flow: one for patient care, and one for administration. Maybe you could qualify for NGO status and get some government to fund some of the administration side.

This would be somewhat similar to Costco's model, where most (all?) of employee wages come from membership card fees, not product revenue. With this model, you could still let people donate 100% of their funds to the patient if they wanted.

You could even make a slider with an animation that displays the percent which goes to each part of your business - so 10% or 15% of the donation could goto administration.

I love your idea, it's tremendous. Good luck!


You could even make a slider with an animation that displays the percent which goes to each part of your business - so 10% or 15% of the donation could goto administration.

This is a great idea. Check the Humble Bundle's (http://www.humblebundle.com/) sliders at the bottom of the page to see how they handle their "Humble Tip", maybe you guys can do something similar.


I also strongly suggest this humblebundle ui on 'Question 2' on the bottom. This would be ideal... HOWEVER, there also is the possibility you end up having not enough for the patients and plenty for the salaries.

Maybe make it 'what is the max percent you want to see spent on admin cost'. that way you are allowed to use as much as you'd like to for the patient.


We love the "max percent" idea. We've never thought about looking at it that way. Thank you!


Awesome! Glad I could help. Keep us posted. Also, do you have a newsletter of some sorts? I'd like to signup.


This is why HN is such an amazing place. So much helpful feedback, all over. Unbiased. Informative.


Wow, that's an incredible UI


If that fails, perhaps you could appeal to Heroku to waive hosting charges for this.

You never know!


Those are awesome suggestions. Thank you! We were actually just approved as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the states, and that will open us up to a lot of funding opportunities. But we love the Costco Model idea!


You're getting the paypal charity rate, right? I thought I saw in your faq that you mentioned 2.9%, but the 501c3 rate is 2.2%: https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/donations


I have experience running a website that made running costs + more from donations, let me know if you want to have a chat about what worked and what didn't!


We'd love to pick your brain. Please feel free to reach out to chase (at) watsi (dot) org.


> Also, you're going to eventually need to take a very small cut of the donations to pay living expenses for your volunteers. 100% to the patient sounds great, but for my donation, I'd prefer to know that there is someone dedicated full-time to the cause and overseeing the process, and receiving a reasonable salary for it. Of course, be 100% transparent about those salaries as well.

This might also be accomplished with a "tipping" model. Always advertise the full 100%, but when they go to "checkout", give them the option of tipping the organization. Make a default recommendation of, say, 10%, but let them pick their own tip amount as well.

It would be interesting to see what the average tip amount would be here.


We are definitely considering experimenting with a donation "tip" feature. Based on our research, the average tip on peer-to-peer giving and lending platforms is about 5% of the total donation amount for a first time donation, and virtually nothing for recurring donations (people usually only tip once). It's not enough to run an organization on, but it's a great potential source of revenue to help cover some overhead costs.


Don't discount it. Your numbers are about right, but that can definitely be enough to run an organization. Kiva has about 80 full time staff and about 3/4s of their funding comes from lender tips.


This is great to know. We need to get on that feature ASAP!


>The one thing you need to focus on above all else is transparency and preventing scams.

While I think transparency is important. It's disappointing that this project attracts suspicion, especially in the light of Kickstarter projects for non essential consumables attracting millions with little to no oversight/transparency.

Watsi have done much more than the average Kickstarter campaign to show where the money goes and who's involved: http://watsi.org/faq#really-100-of-my-donation-goes-to-the-c...


Your points are valid however nobody on Kickstarter makes a guarantee of transparency or even fraud-less behavior.

The skepticism or desire for transparency here stems directly from the service they say they provide.

One shouldn't be cynical of holding people to their own standards otherwise the words are meaningless.


> I'm thinking an Android app that the locals could use

I have no data to back me up here but I'm not sure whether people in countries like Ethiopia (just an example 'cause it was on the OPs front page) are rich enough to possess the necessary hardware to run Android apps.


I wouldn't waste time/resources on an Android app this early. Spend your resources validating this concept even more.


Travelling around India, Indonesia, Laos, and so on, I found that even if someone lived in a shack, there was still a good chance they owned a cell phone. Now, that's just anecdotal obviously, and typically not smart phones, but still, it may the number may be higher than you expect.


This service has a tremendous potential to do good and help people in need.

As the previous poster mentioned, I too recommend you guys continue focusing on transparency and preventing scams. You don't want the service to be ruined because of a few bad apples.

IMO, a smartphone/android app would probably not be accessible for many of those living in developing countries. But the general trend I've been hearing about is that a growing number of people living in developing countries are getting access to basic cellular/text service.


Like I said above, transparency and accountability are our two strongest values, and we've spent a very long time making sure our operations are as legit as humanly possible.

Right now we are only working with three partners, all of whom we have a personal relationship with and trust 100%. That said, if/when we expand, we won't have the luxury of only working with people we know and that's going to make the due-diligence process more difficult. But unlike other NGO's (like global giving, kiva, etc.) we don't need a ton of partners to grow. A single partnership with an organization like Doctors Without Borders would ensure we have enough profiles for a lifetime.

However, I love the idea of having the community regulate the Medical Partner via SMS or something like that (sort of like an, "am I driving poorly? call 1-800... for healthcare providers). Great idea!


That's exactly what I wanted to say. Please don't blow this. Your "service" could really make a difference for a lot of these people, and hopefully thousands more when you grow. But only if you keep it transparent and scam-free so people feel safe donating money (or "funding their treatment", as you put it).


We won't blow it. Our entire team has worked abroad (5 former Peace Corps Volunteers, international doctor, etc.) and we put transparency and accountability first. We're extremely anal about reducing risk, and we plan to grow slow to ensure we don't over-extend ourselves.

If there is any information with regard to transparency that you don't see on the site, please let us know and we will add it. Thanks for the support!


I was thinking the %100 made sense. And that they rely only on donations specifically to them. So like I'd pay the 10 bucks to the child with cancer. And separately I'd add a dollar for them. I'd like that. Then we can decide how rich we want to make you.


Haha. We're never going to get rich, but the optional "tip" idea is a great one.


> Also, you're going to eventually need to take a very small cut of the donations to pay living expenses for your volunteers.

Not to mention the 11 staff members they have, who probably are not in this just for the joy of saving adorable little African babies.


We have a pretty awesome team. Everyone is part-time, and we are all 100% volunteer. We know that's not sustainable, and we will need to raise money to scale, but it's pretty rad nonetheless! (And we all make way more at our day jobs than we would ever make working full-time for Watsi).


Just sent an email to you guys.

You probably have a deluge of emails so I'm going to harass you from every vector :)

Hey there, my name is Joe and I want to work for you for free.

In the summer I work in the US as a skydiving instructor. In the (north american) winter I travel around, mostly to third world countries in southeast asia.

I want to volunteer and find people in need of medical care. My girlfriend is Filipino and as a native speaker we could really do some good there, as well as in other countries in the area.

I have many years of experience in the wild, the Mongolian steppe (three months on horseback), the Brazilian jungle (4 months on foot), and all of southeast asia.

I can cover all my own expenses and won't need a dime for travel or in country needs.

Let me work for you.


video, or other content doesn't help prevent scamming. It just pulls a few more heart strings, in the eyes of the viewers (thus "more sincere"). Additionally, what about people who don't have access to video, or do a poor production job?

If you want transparency, it has to be done by the organization (lots of foot work and following up with where the money was spent by the implementing orgs).


Do you think people who need few hundred dollars to save their life have android phones?


Lots of communities have shared cell phones and use mobile networks because there is no line infrastructure.




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