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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Tip Jars and Sustaining Members

In my line of work and type of advocacy, I get a lot of requests for pro bono work.  I support my life’s mission and a family on the money I earn from painting and speaking.  Though I am always trying to add to the public good, I can only agree to a few pro bono gigs per year.  Some of the venues that ask me to present are small hospitals, non-profits or universities that can only afford to pay travel, lodging and my babysitter’s fees.  I work with these folks because I so deeply want to help their mission as it aligns with my own.  We want to help patients have better lives and end of lives.  We want medical professionals to have joy in their work as they help others.

Some venues don’t have any money for patient speakers.  They cannot afford to pay for travel or lodging or anything else.  They may be very small and operating on a shoestring budget.  Or they could be very large but their advocacy is far reaching and the funds are pressed thin.

For the past two years @HIMSS has asked me to speak.  For the past two years HIMSS has paid my travel and lodging.  This year they cannot.  They would like me to speak, paint and spread the patient story far and wide but there are no funds for travel.

I did the math.  If I sleep on a friend’s couch or even bring a sleeping bag, I could go to Orlando #HIMSS2014 but I need to spend $850.00 out of pocket on travel and sitter’s fees.  I told my friend @ePatientDave I would probably bring a tip jar to set next to my easel in an effort to defray the cost.  Hey, it works for musicians on the subway.   Why not work for an activist artist at an informatics conference? 

Then a friend on twitter asked me if there was a way to donate towards my work.  Did I have a @gittip account?  I did not.  But her question intrigued me.  What was Gittip?

Well, I went to their homepage and my world was rocked!  It is a sustainable crowdfund! I wanted to fistbump the entire Internet! I have done crowdfunding before with great sites like @Medstartr and @Healthtechhatch, but that is a campaign specific and the funds I raise usually go to help others.  Here is the explanation from their page:

Gittip is a way to give small weekly cash gifts to people you love and are inspired by.
Gifts are weekly. The intention is for people to depend on money received through Gittip in order to pay their bills, and bills are recurring.
Gifts come with no strings attached. You don't know exactly where your gifts come from, and the maximum gift from one person to another is $100 per week.
Gifts are public. The total amount you give and the total amount you receive is public. Participants on both sides of the equation are rewarded publicly for their participation. (You can opt out of publicly displaying your total giving.)
Give by answering Who inspires you? on our homepage, and following the steps."

Wow!!! This could make a difference in the lives of so many patient advocates and speakers.

So here is my virtual tip jar:

If you like what I do and want to support it in an ongoing way, this site is for you! 

Thank you everyone at Gittip for your valid work.  So many individuals in crowdfunding feel the shame of holding the beggars bowl; you have rebranded that bowl into a jar we can all be proud of.

**************************UPDATE*********************** 12:31 Feb 2, 2014

Just two hours later and folks are already donating!

@Sphere3 has already offered me a hotel room for HIMSS14!

God is good! I am so thankful and blessed to have such wonderful friends! What a great way to spend a Sunday.


  1. First, I'm thrilled about this!

    But I'll also go out on a limb and say HIMSS should be ashamed of itself for asking a patient to come speak, and their own expense!

    That's just ridiculous. The individuals involved in that decision really need to go to their rooms and think about things.

    1. Dave aren't you speaker/ keynote for the patient engagement event? Sounds like their budget didn't support both of you this time around (sometimes people raise their rates) was all? The admission fee for most of us is over $1400 as well as travel and all of the vendors pay to be there are well. I think only a few speakers are actually paid. Maybe it is different over here in the UK but most advocates work for a non-profit vs free-lancing.

    2. Just checked from speaker page. "HIMSS does not pay for lodging or travel expenses"

      So why should they be ashamed for treating someone who makes a living as speaker like any other speaker?

    3. Dear Anonymous,

      Yep, they probably just ran out of funding to pay travel/lodging after paying for so many things. I went to the crowd for funding as I know it would help the organization if I went, but I really cannot afford to attend too many events that will cost close to a grand to attend in a year. Many advocates in the US are freelance as much of our care is likewise :)

      They should not be ashamed, but if says that it is inconsistent. They have paid in the past.

  2. Well, I am so happy I have found a path toward sustainable crowd-funding! It is very stressful gearing up for a campaign and a lot of work reaching goal and sending out all the prizes. I am very happy to have been introduced to Gittip.

    As for HIMSS, I hope everything is okay with the organization. Of all the health information organizations in this space they seem to provide the most messaging on patient engagement. Perhaps 2014 will take messaging from text to action.

  3. Do you know if Gittip income will be taxable, if it exceeds $600 for the year? That will affect how much one needs to set aside.

    1. Yes, I am familiar with the major tax hit one takes from crowd funding. In 2012, I found that out in my first project. :)

    2. Chad Whitacre (@whit537) is gittips creator, and all around awesome dude who has already answered a bunch of tax questions, for both those giving an receiving. Check into the twitter stream (#gittip). The focus has always been open source development and diversity/community outreach, and has been a lifesaver for a number of people who do outstanding work.

    3. Yep! I am pretty impressed with Chad's vision!

    4. www.medicalrecordawareness.comFebruary 3, 2014 at 8:46 AM



  4. This is a great post. I really hope that Gittip takes off in other communities. It's very OSS focused at the moment, but I think that's a product of Chad's background. As someone who is also interested in art, poetry, and writing, I hope that one day I might be able to fund some of my work through something like this.

    I'm also fortunate enough to be in the position of influencing my company to do some philanthropy through Gittip. I hope other companies do the same.

    I wrote more about it here: