The conversation below sheds light on some of the questions we had. Philanthropy is a topic close to our hearts, as is bitcoin, and the marriage between the two that Connie, BitGive, and many others around the world are building is inspiring.
Alyson: Has bitcoin affected BitGive’s bottom line? Are you able to see efficiency gains and improve savings with bitcoin?
Connie: We do save a lot of money in fees since most of our donations come in as bitcoin, and we have services that are provided at no cost to nonprofits, such as our donation processing through BitPay. We also have other proprietary and pro bono services that dramatically reduce our costs. However, the technology still has a long way to go to integrate across all our services. So while it is possible to transfer funds instantly and for less, there are still some costs along the way for conversions in and out of fiat. Additionally, BitGive holds the majority of our assets in bitcoin, so the price fluctuations have affected us both in the upswings and in the down turns. Ultimately, we hold in bitcoin because we believe in its value and the long-term viability.
Alyson: How do your donors feel about giving in bitcoin? Is there a positive emotional takeaway knowing BitGive receives the entire donation?
Connie: Yes, I believe our donors do greatly appreciate that more of their funds are going to the cause. I think what also excites our supporters is that we are leveraging this new technology to support important causes and reaching out to nonprofits to educate them about the benefits of the technology. We are also one of the only organizations working in developing countries to demonstrate the social impact of bitcoin, and I think our supporters appreciate that as well.
Alyson: Being able to accept donations and use them immediately, instead of having to wait for checks to clear, credit card deposits, and so on – is this impacting how quickly you operate, in particular, with any disaster relief work that you do?
Connie: Our donations have mostly come in bitcoin both for BitGive and our charitable campaigns. So, we do have immediate access to those funds. Of course for some things we do need to convert into local currency, but we try to avoid this as much as possible. The greater challenge is on the receiving end where infrastructure to convert funds is still lacking in the developing world.
For disaster relief efforts, we have thus far supported the typhoon in the Philippines in 2013 through Save the Children and more recently earthquake relief efforts in Nepal with Medic Mobile. In the case of the Philippines, Save the Children at that time did not accept bitcoin, so we converted the funds prior to making the donation. Save the Children now accepts bitcoin directly with BitPay. With our Nepal campaign, there is currently no exchange or remittance service in Nepal to convert bitcoin into Nepalese rupees. We have been looking into different options, but we may end up converting the bitcoin prior to making the donation.
Our Bitcoin Charity 2.0 Initiative is focused on leveraging the technology more through working in those areas where we do have last-mile liquidity, such as Kenya, Philippines, and Argentina, so that we can demonstrate the full breadth of the technology and impact from end to end. We are also working to build a donation transparency model and platform to showcase the flow of funds through the entire process, using the blockchain for accountability and transparency in nonprofit work.
Alyson: Do you work with other nonprofits on bitcoin education and showing them how beneficial it is? How are they responding to this?
Connie: Yes, this is a large part of what we do and where I believe we have provided a lot of value over the past two years. We have worked with some of the larger more well known nonprofits as I have mentioned like Save the Children, The Water Project, Medic Mobile and more. In every case it has been a very fruitful partnership and it has strengthened their interest in bitcoin. We worked with Save the Children for over a year, starting with the campaign for the Philippines, and through that process answered their questions around legal, accounting, and regulatory, which eventually led them to be ready to start accepting bitcoin directly.
Medic Mobile’s interest is peaked and quite compatible with bitcoin as they are using mobile technology throughout the developing world to improve health care. It will be exciting to see what the future holds with bitcoin and this innovative and ground-breaking young tech nonprofit.
The Water Project had just recently embraced cryptocurrencies when we decided to run a campaign for them, but our work together was one of their first endeavors in bitcoin and only strengthened their interest and commitment. We are now partnering with them again to work hand in hand to develop a transparency model and platform for charity donations.
BitGive is constantly working on ways to help those who need it around the world. If you’d like to make a donation, click here.