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Editorial

A (Bit)coin for a cause: How crypto intersects with charity

Until recently, the focus in the ‘cryptosphere’ has been on making money. Lots of it. But there is also huge scope to give something back – there is an increasing amount of charities and NGOs out there who are now accepting donations in the form of cryptocurrency.

Written by Bryan Smith Published on

The relatively new sphere of cryptocurrency has opened up a world of opportunity for many forward thinkers and risk takers who were willing to gamble their hard-earned savings on the possibility of making a livelihood, and even a fortune, in this fast-moving space. While many have lost nest eggs and fallen by the wayside, there are plenty of success stories out there. Gigantic fortunes have been made, and cryptocurrency continues to make billionaires of those who dare to think and dream big.

With that comes the scope for a fresh source of capital that can be put to good use in the world. Human nature being as it is, there are those who want to hoard and keep every penny (or Bitcoin in this case) for themselves, and then there are self-made multi-millionaires and billionaires who are determined to give something back –­ whether it’s a sense of guilt at having so much capital when others have so little, or simply that they feel it’s their civic duty. It’s also a chance to leave a meaningful legacy for others.

There is an increasing amount of charities and NGOs out there who are now accepting donations in the form of cryptocurrency. Already by 2015, high-profile names like Greenpeace USA, American Red Cross, and Save the Children were seeing the huge potential for hefty donations through the cryptocurrency community, and were publicly requesting donations in Bitcoin.

Greenpeace, for example, don’t accept donations from corporations or governments (and therefore largely rely on obtaining funding from individuals), are one such group. Since 2014, they have actively encouraged Bitcoin donations, citing lower processing fees (centralized banks are not involved) as one of the advantages.

However, more recently, there have been fears that the energy needed to mine the cryptocurrency donations they receive will have an adverse effect on the environment, thereby “hastening climate change” and contributing to the very destruction that they are aiming to prevent. These fears have been dismissed by Greenpeace, and since making their announcement in 2014, the NGO has reaped the rewards, being the recipient of ‘massive’ donations through MA Blockchain.

Some of the charities/NGOs who accept Bitcoin donations tie in with the maverick spirit of the crypto community. One such group is MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), which funds clinical trials that use listed drugs (marijuana and psychedelics such as LSD and MDMA) for psychotherapy. In fact, MAPS has proved a popular recipient. For example, at the end of last year, it was announced via a press release that the Pineapple Fund, set up by an “anonymous cryptocurrency philanthropist”, donated 59.89 BTC (then valued at $1,000,000) to MAPS. The same press release said that up to December 2017, they had accumulated donations in excess of $120,800 in Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin since 2013. The $1,000,000 donation illustrates the sort of money that can be leveraged from the ‘cryptosphere’ to back worthwhile or ground-breaking community projects.

The Pineapple Fund is itself worth a mention. Founded by a super-wealthy anonymous donor operating under the alias of ‘Pine’, who is supposedly one of the top 250 global Bitcoin holders, the fund was set up as part of a plan to distribute more than $86 million in Bitcoin donations to charities globally. By year-end 2017 the Pineapple Fund, according to its website, had “already given $20 million worth of the currency to 13 organizations, including million-dollar donations to the Water Project, which provides clean water to people in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights watchdog.

Other beneficiaries have included WikiEdu, Organ Preservation Alliance and Hearts & Homes for Refugees. Applications for the fund closed in February, and an update from that month stated that all the proceeds had now been allocated.

Blockchain Guild, (a community fund set up specifically to further Bitcoin development), is another example of a group that appeals to those in the cryptocurrency world wanting to donate to a cause that is close to their hearts. The aim of the fund is to provide a space and infrastructure where future developers can be mentored by those with experience in the sphere, and be given instruction in ‘best practices of the community’.  Those lending financial support thus far have included crypto expert Tuur Demeester and Jimmy Song (Bitcoin developer).

Although the donations have been rolling in, perhaps it’s only the tip of the iceberg. As more fortunes are made through cryptocurrency, the scope for philanthropy (benefiting groups as diverse as war orphans and environmentalists, while fostering economic growth) will increase, and with it, the potential to change the world for the better is therefore very exciting.

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Written by

South African technology journalist, podcaster, photographer and filmmaker. Hodling - BTC, NEO, ETH.@bryansmithsa

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