Back in 2010, traveler, surfer, and Peace Corps volunteer Chase Adam was riding a bus close to the Panama-Costa Rica border. As the bus wheezed into a tiny village, a woman climbed aboard with photographs and crumpled sheets of paper in hand. When she began to ask passengers for whatever money they could spare, Chase realized that the woman was fundraising for a very specific cause—a medical procedure for her son. That’s when he had an epiphany.
Already experienced in the top-down world of healthcare NGOs, Chase decided on the spot that he wanted to establish a different kind of nonprofit. Chase’s vision: leverage software, crowdsourcing, and transparency to drive a new business model in the healthcare NGO space. Back in San Francisco, he set about doing just that, and in 2012 Watsi was born, named for the tiny Central American village where his inspiration struck.
“Imagine a girl living in a remote Ethiopian village,” says Chase, “eight hours’ walk from the nearest clinic or hospital, earning less than a dollar a day. Say she’s diagnosed with a heart condition and told she needs a mitral valve replacement—a life-saving heart surgery that’s going to cost $1,500. To her, that’s an insurmountable sum. What can she do? That’s where we come in.”
Through Watsi, this girl can make an online appeal for the funds she needs. Within a matter of days, there’s a good chance that donors will contribute the needed amount, the crucial operation can go ahead, and a life can be saved. A new world of possibilities both for donors and recipients is enabled through software.
Given Watsi’s high reliance on software to drive a new and innovative model, New Relic’s all cloud-based technology was a great fit to help Watsi improve its software performance and gain new insights into the organization’s reach and impact.
To date, Watsi has facilitated contributions from donors in more than 100 countries. Those contributions go directly to patients from 20 developing countries, including Kenya, Guatemala, Cambodia, and the Philippines. Watsi works with 13 partner organizations on the ground, appointing an official coordinator at each affiliated healthcare facility. Coordinators are responsible for identifying eligible patients, explaining the Watsi system, setting up appeals, and ultimately providing the crowdfunded care. One key to Watsi’s success is a secure and transparent software-enabled donation system designed to ensure all funds go where they’re supposed to go—and are used appropriately once they got there. Watsi strives to be “radically transparent,” featuring a Transparency Document that details exactly how, when, and where all funded procedures take place.
The Watsi website is at the heart of the organization’s work. It’s where patients and donors come together—where life-changing acts of generosity occur. Downtime, glitches, crashes, and errors must be dealt with as quickly as possible, because lives may hang in the balance. Fortunately, New Relic has been able to help Watsi keep its site running smoothly.
Thomas Bukowski, Watsi’s lead engineer, came from New Relic and brought the nonprofit to the attention of New Relic founder and CEO Lew Cirne. Lew immediately saw the transformational power of this new software-driven business model and the opportunity for New Relic to help Watsi amplify its impact by giving the organization access to New Relic technology.
“We’ve been using New Relic since the beginning,” says Chase. “It has been just incredibly important in ensuring that we’re building the best software possible and delivering the best experience for our users.”
More than 5,000 patients have now been funded through Watsi, with contributions topping $5 million. But Chase still thinks about one of his organization’s earliest success stories. It involved a 12-year-old Nepalese girl named Priyanka who had suffered terrible burns on one hand, fusing her fingers together. The photo attached to her appeal showed a deeply sad and angry child, visibly skeptical that her dreams of a normal life could come true. But with her target met and her procedure a success, Priyanka sent a new photo to thank all of her supporters.
“I’ll never forget that image,” says Chase. “It was the happiest picture I’ve ever seen in my life—just this big, radiant smile. And her note really stuck with me, too: ‘Thank you. I didn’t have many friends because I didn’t have all my fingers, but now I have all my fingers.’ So simple, but so telling.”
Chase and his team are far from done. “The main objective for the next two years is to start collecting real-time data on the cost of care and on outcomes, so that we can start making more informed decisions regarding which hospitals to work with and exactly what procedures to fund,” he says. “That way, we can make sure we’re assisting people as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
There’s also the Universal Fund—a new feature that allows donors to make regular monthly contributions, which Watsi can then distribute as needed. And, of course, there are always more patients in need of help.
Better software for a better world: New Relic aims to amplify the important work done by nonprofits around the world by improving their software performance, allowing them to better serve their chosen cause. One way New Relic does this is through our nonprofit program, available to qualifying organizations. Proud to be in a position to give back, New Relic hopes to become the leading software analytics provider in the nonprofit sector. To find out more about New Relic’s offers and services for nonprofits, visit newrelic.com/nonprofit.
Photo credits: top image of “Anibal” by Daniel Fitzgerald. All other photos courtesy of Watsi.