Fall-Winter 2021
Project Type
Fast track
Project Focus
Marketing & Communications
Organization Type


Watsi is a tech nonprofit that enables anyone to donate as little as $5 to directly fund surgical care for patients around the world. Watsi believes that everyone deserves access to healthcare and is committed to using technology to make healthcare a reality for those otherwise unable to afford care. Watsi works directly with local medical partners to create sustainable, locally led programs. The organization is committed to being radically transparent, impact-focused, and patient-centered. 100% of donations to Watsi fund surgical care, which provided 2,021 individuals with life-changing healthcare in 2020. 


Seventeen million lives are lost globally each year to surgically treatable conditions – five times greater than those lost to Malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS combined. On average, $524 provides high-quality surgical care for a Watsi patient, who is treated for one of over 100 medical conditions such as club foot, hydrocephalus, and heart defects. Over the past year, Watsi has seen an increase in new engagement and donations from supporters who had not donated to the organization in more than two years and hypothesizes that it could effectively re-engage this segment of prior donors to help meet the growing need for support for patients around the world.

Project Objectives

Watsi sought an ACT team to help it develop a plan and campaigns to test re-engagement of donors who haven’t made a new gift to the organization in more than two years. Some questions answered: Who are Watsi’s current and past donors, including those that lapsed and then donated again after more than two years? What motivated the lapsed donors to return to Watsi? What can Watsi learn from innovative re-engagement campaigns used by other nonprofit or for-profit organizations? What experiments might Watsi try to hone its approach to re-engage lapsed donors?

Project Overview

This project consisted of first understanding Watsi’s history of donations and donors followed by researching other successful/innovative campaigns in the non-profit and private sector that re-engage donors/customers who have lapsed in their engagement. This was followed by having discussions on past efforts by Watsi and what was deemed as successful and unsuccessful campaigns. Based on this information, the ACT team suggested targeted groups of lapsed donors and specific campaign efforts for Watsi to help determine best ways to re-activate this community of past supporters to make new donations. The ACT team then presented ideas for re-engagement of this community including specific operational steps with assigned responsibilities and timelines. In addition, based on ACT’s initial analyses of the database of donors, Watsi updated its ability to provide itself with more detail regarding the behavior of its donors on an ongoing basis.

Key Recommendations

The ACT team worked with the Executive Director of Watsi in determining an appropriate target for re-engaging this group of lapsed donors (defined for this purpose of not having donated for two years) and the board-approved target was set at 400. Breaking out this group of donors based on their past donation history (e.g., monthly member, frequent donor, gift card only donor) would enable targeted campaigns every quarter in 2022. In addition to these campaigns, The ACT team also suggested that Watsi minimize one-time donors by reworking gift card campaigns. And, while Watsi’s retention rate was slightly above the industry average and Watsi’s communication practices were seen to be strong, The ACT team also suggested that new donors be called or emailed and their responses be logged in a database to better understand motivations that could lead to specific and targeted campaigns in the future. In addition, urging the donors to sign up for the monthly donation programs was suggested as was developing new campaigns to maximize peer-to-peer giving – both efforts in order to create an even more sustainable donors’ base.

Key Conclusions

Watsi does many things well and has an above industry average retention rate. It is, however, still a relatively small non-profit organization so further increasing their re-engagement with past donors seems to be worth the effort.

The ACT team now believes Watsi has a better understanding of its donor base, where it falls within the spectrum of other non-profits regarding its communications with donors, and steps it can take to further improve its relationship with donors. Armed with a targeted population of lapsed donors (in this case lapsed for at least two years), Watsi is ready and able to undertake quarterly campaigns in an effort to re-engage at least 400 of these past donors. Specific cohorts of this population were recommended for the first three quarters of 2022 with the fourth quarter’s campaign to be determined based on the success and learnings of the first three quarters. While the project is formally closed, the ACT team will check in with Watsi to review the success of these campaigns and offers any additional guidance and suggestions that might make further campaigns even more successful.

Final Report Outline

  • Summary of project plan
  • Outline of approaches and actions taken by ACT team
  • ACT team’s findings and recommendations
    • Case studies
    • Other resources of use and/or interest