Monday, December 31, 2007

GIVE WELL GIVE OFTEN - NONPROFIT TREND OF THE WEEK

New Feature! Nonprofit Trend of the Week

Nonprofit Innovations


disclaimer: this is NOT a plug - please read to end of article for pro's and con's!

A friend introduced me to a for-profit product that dovetails well with nonprofit values. Produced by GiveWell.com , the product itself is called the "Healthcare Gift Card". There are pros and cons (discussed below), but first, what is it? Givewell bills itself as:

...a new way to help employees cover health and wellness costs. It is designed to encourage healthy living and staying well.

Employees can use it to cover a variety of healthcare costs including co-pays at doctor’s offices and pharmacies or for vision care, dental care, health club memberships and elective procedures at businesses that accept Visa debit cards.


Pros


Giftwell tells us that

Because the Healthcare Gift Card is targeted to work only with health and wellness providers, you can be assured your gift card will be used as a “gift of health.”

Better than giving someone cash and worrying that they'll use it on something less necessary? Hmmm...this may also be a "Con". Is a massage more necessary than gas or groceries? Can individuals not be trusted to use cash (or cash equivalents) for something they need? Is the glass half empty or half full here?

Cons

It's worrisome that a card like this can only exist in a country that doesn't provide adequate health care in the first place. Might it not be like saying "here, I know you're poor and can't afford to go to the dentist, so here's a little reminder of that"?

More worrisome is a hidden charge. After nine months if the card hasn't been used, the purchased starts incurring a monthly charge. That's kind of insane, I wouldn't want to give out a card unless I was darn sure it was going to be fully used!

The real evil here is that the stats show most folks don't use (or fully use) the gift cards they receive, perhaps Givewell's business model is based on this premise (not on the actual sale of the cards)...

But before we throw the baby out with the bathwater...there is some intriguing kernel of information here. Could you sell the card (at a markup) as a fundraiser? Could you set up to accept these cards (fee for service?) and have your donors decide who to give them to?

I think there's something here, but as always, let the buyer beware.


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