If you guys are open to some conversion rate optimization testing ideas I saw a few areas that would likely respond to treatments - drop me a line via my profile and I'd be happy to have our team put together a free breakdown and help out where we can resource wise.
1) People won't click what they can't see - I've now encountered the watsi blog a few times via media. Link to Watsi.com from the header of the blog. Stick a call to action on the right side that links directly to "Donate Now". The "Donate Bitcoins" is cool, but that goes to Watsi opps vs your core biz. Ideally dynamically pull down the "closest to being funded" profile and stick it there w/a big button.
2) In checkout I used PayPal and I almost I clicked off before I saw there was another step required in the "You're about to confirm your donation" and then "Complete Donation". I'd test a little bit of a bolder statement there, would be interested to see abandons there but glad to see that you are storing the session.
3) Improve visibility of after-checkout links / actions - After funding you provide social links to share the message, get those higher up / directly under the top paragraph of text. Also include your "View Other Profiles"
4) I was compelled to donate a second time when I realized that I could be the "Final funder" to close out a campaign - that seems like a really solid way to drive a secondary call to action in the email that you send and gives immediacy that is otherwise lacking.
5) Your instant email is great, but with more and more email clients blocking images by default (1) it's a lost opportunity - this is what I saw in my gmail client http://imgur.com/u9AifHM - get some basic ALT tags in there as a quick fix, as a longer term fix shrink your logo way down, put block text in the top image quadrant along with a call to action eg "Thank you for funding [NAME]'s medical treatment - click here to meet other new patients on Watsi!"
That would also have the beneficial effect of potentially randomizing some donations across the patient portfolio.
If we'd had an API, we would probably have done smaller-dollar donations for people who got (say) halfway through.
Also, weird as this will sound: it feels very awkward talking up donations from the challenges (for one thing, the dollar amounts we're talking about are a pittance), and so I rarely do. But if the donations were automated, we'd automatically post the donation totals as well. The way things like Twitter work, repetition is hugely valuable.
People have a great need for a sense of purpose in their lives, and tying their activity to the well being of another seems like a win-win.
So, if you could keep that use case in mind while designing your API...
As long as I have your ear, I would also like to recommend better integration into Facebook.
These touching stories are perfectly poised to go viral, and Facebook is the perfect place to make that happen.
You just need to to set up the right conditions and get the right flow going.
Like getting the right soil, the proper fertilizer, the perfect growing conditions for a plant. Then you just plop in the seed and it grows, seemingly on its own.
Your existing "share" button just isn't good enough for that. I'm not going to pretend I know exactly what is good enough, but I do know that examining and solving that problem could open up some amazing viral growth.
I'll bet you can find some Watsi Facebook share posts/campaigns that were wildly successful and fast.
They probably start out with a post like this: "This is very dear to my heart. I just donated $30. We only need $150 more. Can you help?" Then other people start replying "I just gave $50", "I just donated", "We only need $100 more", "We DID IT!" - all on one person's timeline. The seed. Then the flow, the shared excitement, and finally the celebration. In their house, with their friends watching.
It's everything that makes sports so exciting, but even better because at it's heart it satisfies a basic human need to help others.
Is there a way for you to facilitate that on Facebook? Like one click to seed, with compelling text? And maybe realtime updates on each thread from someone at Watsi? With a celebration at the end? And updates from Watsi directly onto that person's Facebook thread?
Like I said, I don't necessarily have all the answers, but I can see the possibilities.
Open source is hugely important to me, and Watsi wouldn't be what it is without all those awesome people out there writing code for the masses. Props to them!
Can you elaborate a little bit on what you mean by this:
"Also, most startups don't open source their core business code. Some do, and I think it makes sense for them. I don't think it makes sense for us though."
My understanding is that normally as a business the considerations here would be competitive, right? But that doesn't apply in the context of non-profits. If someone else came in and used your "core business code" to make something which was then helpful to other people, that would be a good thing, right?
Likewise, your statement about the app being specific to you and not useful to others makes sense within the normal parameters of a business considering open source. But I think the idea is not that your code would be a self-sustaining open source project because it's especially useful as code, but rather that people (for example here) would be willing to help you do your work for free because they support the mission of your organization. A sort of "in-kind" donation of their time and energy and expertise, right?
I definitely think that between your admirable mission and the prestige of your network you could certainly be getting lots of free help and resources beyond just cash donations. If you could develop a workflow (via open source or some other mechanism) to take advantage of volunteer engineer labor, you could presumably pursue whatever software goals you have radically faster, I would think.
There's competition in every market, non-profits included. Even though we're not trying to compete for dollars (necessarily) in that we hope to help "grow the pie," we are competing for attention. Anyway, that's probably another discussion.
> If someone else came in and used your "core business code" to make something which was then helpful to other people, that would be a good thing, right?
Of course! My hunch is that that the existing open source systems out there that do the crowdfunding thing would suffice. Catarse is one I can think of off the top of my head. I looked into using it for Watsi but decided it wasn't going to work. My point is is that there is already software out there like ours. The fact that someone could use ours as a base is nice, but not motivation enough to open it up. Are crowdfunding platforms going to become the new CMS? It might already be happening.
> A sort of "in-kind" donation of their time and energy and expertise, right?
Yes, and we are already leveraging that, just selectively. Everything takes time, especially managing open source software. Even though the tools have gotten much better (does anybody remember what life was like before Githug, et al?) it doesn't mean the cost of managing the contributions have gone down to zero. We want to leverage energy where we can, but in a way that works for us. Open sourcing our code doesn't necessarily feel like the right approach to me.
I certainly understand your last paragraph; we have to balance the help we get from volunteers against the amount of time and energy it takes to supervise them. And you know far better than I the extent to which this specific kind of software is easily available or not.
I think the most interesting question here, one with big implications, is the question of how to think about competition in the non-profit sector. Traditionally non-profits compete for resources all the time, money being the obvious example. If my patron philanthropist has $1m to spend this year, every $100k they give to another organization is $100k they aren't giving to me.
Likewise, I understand what you mean about attention. If you believe that you are uniquely suited to grow the whole pie with Watsi, and if you believe that similar charities forming would limit the attention you receive, it seems totally reasonable to think competitively.
My intuition says there are important distinctions to be made here, but I'm not able to suss them out at the moment. I'd love to read more thinking some day about this, especially in the context of internet, start-up-like organizations. How does a motive to serve, put in place of a motive to profit, alter these dynamics?
Early on we were approached by a budding organization that wanted to license our platform. I was initially excited by the potential for revenue, but shortly realized that what we were building would be too custom to us. Coming from a consulting background, I didn't think it would be worth it to the licensee.
> how to think about competition in the non-profit sector
Yes, this is interesting to think about. My personal opinion is that non-profits might be better off moving more towards a for-profit model in terms of needing an actual revenue model. There are a ton of great non-profits out there, but I'm not convinced fundraising is the only way to stay in business in the long term.
Thanks for the discussion!
If Watsi really flies, expect groups like Heifer International to offer similar programs. If the "business" model works, someone else may code up a clone of the backend anyway.
If anyone from Watsi is looking, please look into this (might be an edge case though). I was close to a "eh, let me do this later." - which is bad.
If not, then good luck :D
How can we help you spread the word? What's your media strategy? What's the pinnacle- the Today show? Somebody paying for a primetime ad?
Re: media strategy. Broad, national, mainstream outlets will be our next big challenge. Today would be amazing. Good Morning America, Frontline World News, 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper, Fareed Zakariah, Ellen, Diane Sawyer, Nick Kristof, Al Jazeera...any of those would be a pinnacle :)
HackerNews: here's your challenge. Who knows someone who produces at one of those programs?
(Watsi, can one of your investors hook you up? I have to imagine Conway, PG, et al have the right connections. I wish there was something we could do with technology, like start a twitter campaign or something that would get you noticed... speaking of which, you guys would be the only place where I would actually click on a "share what you just did on facebook" button, after donating. Don't really care to share what book I purchased on Amazon, but I'd definitely be happy to share that I helped fund Phillip's treatment for cleft lip.)
You guys should get a grip in europe. Are you planning on making regular bank transactions possible in europe? For traditionally-minded people who'd like to donate.
As for regular bank transactions, we're going to explore it. For now you can hook up your bank to your Paypal account. It's not ideal though, we know!
Thanks for your support!
Most already do, but that's actually a problem for most charities, since they can't figure out how to scale or operate more efficiently because their budget is tied so directly to services.
For more than this, see the reasoning and extensive examples in Ken Stern's book With Charity For All. I wrote about it here: http://blog.seliger.com/2013/06/02/with-charity-for-all-ken-... , and anyone interested in how the charitable subset of nonprofits actually operate should read the book.
(I'm a consultant who does grant writing for nonprofit and public agencies and have heard a million laments on this issue.)
Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong
http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think_about... (20 min video)
> nonprofits [...] are rewarded for how little they spend
> -- not for what they get done
http://www.econtalk.org/archives/_featuring/dan_pallotta/ (1 hr EconTalk podcast)
> The use of overhead as a measure of effectiveness makes it difficult for
> charities to attract the best talent, advertise, and invest for the future
http://amzn.com/B003BLY740 ($15 340 pg. Kindle book)
> double-standards place the nonprofit sector at extreme disadvantage to
> the for profit sector on every level
In addition, it's prestigious / sexy to see a staff person handing food over to someone, or providing an ear exam to a kid, or whatever. It's not sexy to get a functional CRM or logistics manager or whatever.
> It's important to remember that a 'high overhead' though,
> does correlate to bad performance.
In the sciences, high overhead (as charged on top of grants given by taxpayer-funded organizations such as NIH, NSF, DOE) inevitably means questionably high payouts to the executive-level presidents, and what not. Now that I know how to read 990s, I am looking through the history of a particular nonprofit science research org; 10 years ago it was entirely run off of its endowment and had a promise to the researchers of independence from the tyrrany of grants. Over the course of the decade, the active scientist corpus has shrunk by 3/4, the president gets paid 3x more, the endowment is < 20% of what it used to be, and PIs are being pushed to apply for soft money, and they are negotiating overheads of 60% or more.
Then there are spectacularly bad organizations such as the Harlem Boy's Choir, which I have no personal experience with, but certainly serve as cautionary tales.
Allowing smaller donations to be targeted and fully directed at specific goals is an interesting idea, but somebody needs to figure out the right words to use when discussing it.
I tend to think of Watsi as sort of a one-off, at least right now. Do you think it will become easier to make philanthropic ventures if funding them becomes similar to funding Venture companies? I mean in a way it already is, except you write a grant instead of pitching a capitalist.
Does this pave the way for more non-profit venture companies or is this just a one-off?
EDIT: Massive congratulations to the team at Watsi :). Job well done.
On a separate note, this is an AWESOME idea and service. Trust the private sector to take on poverty, where the government has failed to date.
The government has been pretty succesful in taking on poverty in Nordic countries, but it requires taxes.
It's pretty incredible to think that by connecting people, we may be able to transcend systems that aren't working.
1. Do you think there may be selection effects in this type of donation model? How do you plan on preventing discrimination against the less photogenic?
2. Do my dollars, etc actually go directly to specific individuals, or is there a layer of intermediation a la Kiva (over which there was some confusion and "controversy" )
3. In a world where watsi-like treatment model becomes successful, do you believe that creating these individual-to-individual dependencies is a net positive improvement for society?
>Do you think there may be selection effects in this type of donation model?
In short, no, because we leave patients posted until they are fully funded. More detail here: http://b.qr.ae/109DseY
>Do my dollars, etc actually go directly to specific individuals?
100% of your donation goes to the Medical Partner for the purpose of covering the cost of care for that specific person. In Watsi's case, however, sending money to the hospital is actually more efficient than sending money to the patient directly, because that's where the funds will ultimately end up. We talk more about operations in our FAQ: https://watsi.org/faq and in this blog post: http://bit.ly/Ynug55
>Do you believe that creating these individual-to-individual dependencies is a net positive improvement for society?
I believe systems like Watsi are the future of healthcare. There are roughly 200 countries in the world, and approximately 40 have functioning healthcare systems. In each of those 40 systems, healthcare is paid for by individuals, for individuals (either through taxation or insurance premiums). We're universalizing those same dynamics in a more transparent and accessible way.
Do you do any benchmarking of the costs (and trends in costs) of Watsi-funded treatments with medical partners vs comparable standards of treatment in the same regions funded in other ways? I'm conscious that costs of treatment with private healthcare companies in the US vary hugely according to who is paying, and that aid can have both positive and negative side effects.
(an expansive answer might be better as a blog post than here, but I'm interested either way)
Also, some UK localization allowing gift aid would help you scoop up my tax with the donation. (Unless I missed it already, I'm only browsing on mobile.)
To me, the photos are problematic: They increase funding, no doubt, but for all the wrong reasons. Donors shouldn't care about patient photos, except as part of some general evidence to reassure users that Watsi is not running or becoming the victim of a scam.
Can you imagine any crowdfunding site out there, especially Watsi, without photos?
That said, congrats to the team for tackling such a worthy cause.
This isn't really true, most issues about resource distribution are political in nature and are not the result of a lack of resources.
EDIT: Cheering => Donating -- https://watsi.org/fund-treatments
Wish you luck for the future!