FAQ

What is Watsi?

Watsi is a nonprofit that builds technology to finance universal healthcare. We provide health coverage in Uganda and run a crowdfunding platform that enables donors to donate as little as $5 to directly fund surgical care for patients around the world. Watsi is a registered U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (EIN: 45-3236734).

What does Watsi mean?

On December 3, 2010, our cofounder was traveling on a bus in Central America when a woman boarded the bus and asked the passengers for donations to pay for her son’s healthcare. This experience led to the birth of Watsi, named after the town he was traveling through at the time.

How does Watsi fund its day to day operations?

100% of every donation made on Watsi directly funds healthcare for the patient you choose. We even pay the credit card processing fees. Our operating expenses are covered separately by foundations, philanthropists, and donors who leave an optional tip during checkout.

How do tips work?

When donating to a patient, Watsi asks for an optional tip to help cover our operating expenses. Tips help us pay for things like card processing fees, software, and staff salaries. For a breakdown of exactly how we spend funds, see our financials on our Transparency Document.

Does Watsi plan to become financially sustainable?

Yes. Our goal is to be 100% financially sustainable through tips, corporate partnerships, and government adoption.

What is the General Fund?

100% of donations to the General Fund support patients. We will often suggest a donation to the General Fund when all Watsi Crowdfunding patients have been funded and we are temporarily out of patients on the site.

Can I see your financials?

Of course! We are 100% transparent. Period. All of our financials are publicly available on our Transparency Document.

Does Watsi have a volunteer / internship program?

Yes! You can find all volunteer and internship opportunities on our blog. It is a great place to read about what’s going on, and find out about opportunities as soon as they arise.

Why doesn't Watsi operate in the United States?

Our mission is to fund low-cost, high-impact healthcare. While we would like to eventually work in the United States, we currently focus our efforts in low-income countries because it’s more frequently the case that a relatively small amount of money stands in the way of someone receiving life-changing care.

Is Watsi religiously affiliated?

No, Watsi is an agnostic organization, but some of our medical partners are faith-based organizations. To learn more about how we evaluate our medical partners, see What is a Medical Partner.

How does Watsi handle patient privacy?

We take patient privacy very seriously. It’s important to us that every patient posted on Watsi understands what Watsi is and how it works. Our medical partners are responsible for ensuring that every patient understands Watsi and explicitly wishes to participate in the program. If a Watsi Crowdfunding patient doesn’t wish to be featured on the website, we give them the option to have their healthcare funded via our General Fund without ever appearing on the website.

What is Watsi’s contact information?

2132 Folsom St., Ste 2, San Francisco, CA 94110
+1 (256) 792-8747
connect@watsi.org

What is a medical partner?

Medical partners are on-the-ground organizations that provide reliable healthcare to underserved populations in low income countries. In order for Watsi to form a relationship with a medical partner, they must maintain the highest of ethical standards and fit the following criteria:

  1. Must be a registered legal and licensed entity in its country of operation.

  2. Must have a history (at least 3 years) of providing reliable healthcare.

  3. Must have a strong positive reputation within the local and national medical community.

  4. Must provide safe and ethical healthcare and be well-respected by the people they serve.

  5. Must agree to allow Watsi to perform due diligence, initial and ongoing, to ensure compliance with specified financial, legal, and ethical regulations.

  6. Must be willing and able to designate a staff member to upload patient profiles and provide updates to donors.

  7. Must have a successful working relationship with at least one US-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Where can I learn more about how Watsi works with medical partners?

Feel free to take a look through our Medical Partner Manual. Our partners use this document as a comprehensive resource for their work with us, so it should contain answers to any questions you have as well.

Who is eligible for Watsi Crowdfunding?

Watsi funds medical care for patients who are unable to pay for care (or some portion of care) themselves. Our medical partners use their local knowledge and experience to vet each Watsi Crowdfunding patient.

Surgical treatments eligible for Watsi Crowdfunding 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, treatments are low-cost and high-impact.

Could Watsi Crowdfunding patients afford their treatments?

No. Watsi funds medical care for patients who are unable to pay for care (or some portion of care) themselves.

Who decides which patients receive funding?

When medical partners send us patient profiles, we confirm that they meet our criteria. We cannot see and evaluate patients ourselves, so we trust that our medical partners are choosing the best treatments available to the patients, in their particular setting. Once a patient is approved and posted on our website, we leave them posted until they are fully funded.

How is the cost of treatment determined?

When we begin funding a new treatment with a medical partner, part of the approval process involves them completing a line-item invoice that estimates the average sustainable price for providing that treatment. These averages are rooted in documentation, justification, and auditing to ensure they represent the average cost of care as accurately as possible. The actual cost of care may differ slightly from case to case, but it is our hope that the average cost of providing a medical treatment is equal to the fixed price agreed upon during the application process. However, partners may request a re-evaluation of pre-approvals as necessary if prices or circumstances change. Watsi may also initiate a re-evaluation if we have reason to believe prices or circumstances have changed.

What does the cost of treatment include?

The cost depends on the type of treatment the patient needs and the context in which the medical partner is operating. The cost often includes doctor time, medical supplies, diagnostics, transportation, food, lodging, and follow-up. You’ll find treatment-specific cost breakdowns at the bottom of every patient profile.

What if a profile isn't funded?

Profiles are posted until they are fully funded, but a patient can receive treatment before the profile is fully funded. We know that when a patient has a serious injury or illness, it sometimes requires immediate attention, and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to allow our medical partners to do their jobs as best they can.

We work closely with our medical partners to determine how many profiles we are able to fund based on current donor demand. We also keep an emergency reserve in our operations account equal to the total number of unfunded profiles we’ve accepted to ensure we never promise healthcare to a patient that we can’t fund.

How do I know the treatment will be a success?

Every treatment posted is considered to have a high probability of success by the medical partner that submitted it. We trust their local knowledge and expertise to make that decision. That said, we can’t guarantee that every treatment funded by Watsi will be successful.

What if a patient passes away?

We only partner with well-respected, trusted organizations that are committed to providing the highest level of care possible. In extreme, heartbreaking circumstances, it’s possible that a patient may pass away after receiving a treatment funded by Watsi donors. In these circumstances, we will transparently report the outcome to donors in an email update. We still send donations to our medical partners in order to pay for the treatment that was received.

What if a patient doesn't receive treatment?

In rare cases, a patient may not receive the treatment that was funded for them on Watsi Crowdfunding. This may happen if a patient decides against treatment at the last minute, no longer needs care, or passes away before treatment is provided. If this happens, Watsi will send each donor a gift card in the amount of their donation, which they can use to support another patient. If gift cards are not used within 30 days, we will allocate the donation to our General Fund for patients.

Why are treatments so cheap?

Healthcare in low-income countries is significantly less expensive than in the U.S. and other high-income countries. We also work closely with our medical partners to find creative ways to reduce the cost of healthcare for patients. In many cases, a percentage of the treatment cost is subsidized by the local government and/or doctors agree to donate their time.

What if a patient needs healthcare before their profile is funded?

We require that patients be submitted to Watsi before they receive healthcare. However, medical partners may provide care to a patient before their profile is posted or fully funded. We allow medical partners to provide care to patients immediately after submitting them to Watsi because we know that when a patient has a serious injury or illness, it sometimes requires immediate attention, and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to allow our medical partners to do their jobs as best they can.

Can I donate monthly?

Yes! You can sign-up to automatically support a new patient every month. Learn more.

Really? 100% of my donation goes to the chosen patient?

Yes, 100% of your donation covers the cost of healthcare for the patient of your choice. Your donation is not pooled into a general programming fund, your donation does not go to help run Watsi’s operations, and your donation does not go to fundraising activities. Watsi even covers the credit card processing fees (2.4% + $0.30 per transaction) so that every cent of your donation directly funds healthcare.

How do I know my money will go to fund the treatment I choose?

Being completely transparent about where your donation goes is one of our most important values. We ensure 100% transparency in a number of different ways:

  1. Publication of all financial transactions: We post all of our financials on our Transparency Document, including screenshots of funds transfers for every patient.

  2. Real updates: You will receive an update with a post-treatment photo and information about the outcome of the treatment you funded.

  3. Partnering with the best: We work with some of the most well-respected medical organizations in the world. You can learn more about each of our medical partners on our Transparency Document.

  4. Due diligence: We have strong personal relationships with each of our medical partners, but we always perform initial and ongoing due diligence to ensure they meet our medical partner Criteria (see “What is a medical partner”). Because all of our Medical Partners are affiliated with a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the US, they are also subject to the tax-exempt rules and regulations of the Internal Revenue Service and are required to release all of their financial information for inspection on an annual basis. To see our due-diligence policies click here.

  5. Direct transfers: Watsi funds are transferred directly to our medical partner for the purpose of covering the cost of the patient’s healthcare. They are never handled by the patient and are never released to anyone for discretionary spending.

How do the donation logistics work?

Our medical partner identifies a patient that needs low-cost, high-impact healthcare and submits the profile to Watsi. If the profile meets our criteria, we accept it and guarantee the medical partner that we will cover the cost of providing care to that patient and they can provide care to the patient whenever is medically appropriate. Watsi posts the profile online, Watsi donors fund it. After the treatment is provided, the medical partner sends Watsi an update about the outcome of the treatment. Once Watsi receives the update, we send it to the donors who supported that patient and transfer the funds to the medical partner’s US bank account to cover the cost of the treatment. For more information about donation logistics, see our Medical Partner Manual.

Why are funds transferred to medical partners' US bank accounts?

We transfer funds to Medical Partners’ US bank accounts so they can bundle international transfers periodically in order to reduce the cost of transfer fees. It’s not cost effective to frequently transfer small sums of money abroad.

Why doesn't Watsi transfer funds before healthcare is provided?

We did this in the beginning, but after conversations with our Medical Partners and counseling from trusted advisers, we decided that it actually makes more sense to transfer funds immediately after care is provided. All patient profiles are accepted by Watsi before the patient receives care. This enables Medical Partners to treat patients whenever makes the most medical sense, operating under the guarantee that Watsi will cover the cost of care. For a detailed description about how we arrived at this conclusion, see this blog post.

Am I really funding healthcare for the patient?

Yes. Your donation directly covers the cost of care for the patient you choose. Medical Partners provide care to patients accepted by Watsi operating under the guarantee that the cost of care will be paid for by donors. In this sense, Watsi operates much like a traditional health insurance company. When you go to the doctor, your doctor calls your health insurance provider to ensure they’ll cover the cost of care. Your doctor then provides care operating under the guarantee that it will be paid for by the insurance company.

Would patients still receive care if their treatment wasn’t funded on Watsi?

It depends on the Medical Partner and the case. In some cases, there is no way the patient would receive healthcare without the guarantee of funding from Watsi donors. In other cases, it’s possible the Medical Partner would find a way to provide healthcare, perhaps by getting another donor to cover the cost or by waiting until the patient raises the money themselves (often by selling land or taking out a loan). Either way, each case funded on Watsi represents one of two things: an expansion of the capacity of the Medical Partner to reach someone they couldn’t serve before, or a push to ensure that the Medical Partner is able to serve that one additional person.

Why was my credit card declined?

Credit card companies and banks decline cards for many reasons. To ensure your financial information remains secure, Watsi does not receive details about why your card was declined. Unfortunately, this means we can’t resolve the problem for you. If your card is declined, please contact your credit card company or bank for help completing your donation.

How do I know my financial information is protected?

We take your security seriously, and we go above and beyond to ensure that your payment information is safe on Watsi. We start by serving our website over HTTPS, so that your browser only communicates with our server over a secure channel. If donating with a credit card, we back that up by validating your credit card’s CVC number to complete a donation, and by only storing the last four digits of your credit card number and the expiration date in our system. The rest of your financial information is managed securely on our behalf by PayPal or Stripe, a globally trusted payments company that has been certified a PCI Service Provider Level 1 by Visa.

Is my donation tax deductible?

Yes. All donations are tax deductible in the U.S. After making a donation on Watsi, you will receive an official tax-deductible receipt at the email you provided. You can also see your yearly donation history in your donor profile settings. Our EIN is 45-3236734.

Does Watsi partner with companies?

Yes! We partner with companies of all sizes to engage employees, recognize customers, and organize corporate giving campaigns. If your company is interested in partnering with Watsi, email connect@watsi.org.

Can my employer match my donation to Watsi?

Yes! The matching funds typically cannot support the same patient you funded due to company donation disbursement timelines, but they will support a new patient after we receive them.

I donated but why did I receive a gift card from Watsi?

In rare cases, a patient may not receive the treatment that was funded for them on Watsi. This may happen if a patient decides against treatment at the last minute, no longer needs care, or passes away before treatment is provided. If this happens, Watsi will give each donor a gift card in the amount of their donation, which they can use to support another patient on Watsi. If they do not use their gift card within 30 days, we will allocate their donation to our general fund for patients.

Can I buy a Watsi gift card to share with a friend/family?

Yes, gift cards can be purchased here. If you have a gift card, you can redeem it here.

Can I create a Watsi campaign to help share my fundraising goals with friends/family?

Watsi had a campaign feature available for donors from 2016 - 2017. Thank you to everyone who supported Watsi patients for a birthday, wedding, travel adventures, and various life events. Moving forward, this feature will not be available on the Watsi site.

Do you have a question that wasn't answered here?

If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, please email your question to connect@watsi.org and we will respond to you as soon as we are able. If we receive multiple questions about a similar topic, we will add that topic to this FAQ so that it is easily accessed by other people.

What is Watsi Coverage?

Watsi Coverage is a program that builds technology to provide community-based health coverage. We’re developing this system in Rwibaale, Uganda in collaboration with the community, clinic, government, and local partners.

Can I donate directly to Watsi Coverage?

Our Watsi Coverage program is currently being funded exclusively by foundations and philanthropists. The best way for individuals to support Watsi is to donate to a Watsi Crowdfunding patient.

Do you use Watsi Crowdfunding donations to pay for Watsi Coverage?

No. 100% of your donation covers the cost of healthcare for the patient of your choice. Your donation is not pooled into a general programming fund, your donation does not go to help run Watsi’s operations, and your donation does not go to fundraising activities.

Where can I learn more about the people enrolled in Watsi Coverage?

People enrolled in Watsi Coverage do not have public profiles like Watsi Crowdfunding patients. You can find information about the number of people enrolled, and how often they are visiting our Watsi Coverage clinic on our Watsi Coverage page.

How can I get involved?

Keep an eye on our blog for upcoming opportunities.