Leveraging Bitcoin For Global Philanthropic Impact

Special to the Philanthropy Journal

By Connie Gallippi

At a time when global access to technology has never been greater, more than 795 million people don’t have access to the resources required to lead a healthy lifestyle. What’s more,half of the world’s population — or 3.8 billion people — cannot obtain basic health services, according to a report by the World Health Organization.

As wealth inequality and population density continue to rise, the global philanthropic community has raised record levels in charitable donations, with Americans donating an estimated $390 billion in 2017 alone. While this may sound promising, it raises an unexpected problem. In response to rising global need and increasing donor interest, many nonprofit organizations have rapidly grown operations, but many are unprepared to provide the security and financial transparency necessary to keep up with the scale and pace.

In searching for a solution, global nonprofits are beginning to consider Bitcoin, and its underlying blockchain technology, as a way to provide greater accountability and save costs. Bitcoin is free from the inefficiencies created by our modern banking system, meaning exchanges that were once costly and time-intensive are nearly instantaneous in comparison. Not only are bitcoin transactions quicker and cheaper, they’re also more secure than traditional transactions thanks to the cryptographically-secured blockchain infrastructure underneath.

When it comes to pressing nonprofit work, like providing aid in the wake of a natural disaster, streamlining and speeding up transaction process can make a significant difference in the lives of those affected. For example, shortly after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, nearly 40,000 families in the region requested short-term housing assistance from the federal government. However, after 100 days, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported that fewer than 900 families had received such aid, citing infrastructure changes as justification for the delay. Bitcoin is a viable solution that can better equip nonprofits to combat bureaucracy and ensure that affected citizens aren’t left unnecessarily waiting to receive the help they need.

Another key attribute of Bitcoin lies in its ability to bring transparency to large-scale operations. By taking advantage of public blockchain technology like Bitcoin, nonprofits can store transactional information on an immutable ledger that can be accessed remotely by any interested party in the network. Whenever funds move to another location, the information is publicly recorded on the blockchain, giving patrons a comprehensive view into both where their money is going, and who it’s going to.

We’re already starting to see tangible results come from this process. In 2015, we at BitGive, the first 501(c)(3) certified nonprofit in Bitcoin, partnered with global philanthropic organization Medic Mobile to provide web services to five of their deployments in Asia, including Barefoot College in India and Timor Health Post in Indonesia. Bitcoin donations were used to buy Amazon gift cards, which could then be used to subsidize Amazon Web Services for communities in need. Not only were we able to execute this project more efficiently than if we had used traditional processes, but we were also able to share project results in real time, giving donors an inside look into our progress. By providing more security and visibility, donors can feel more encouraged to donate, which can increase the overall impact of the nonprofit’s efforts.

Transparency does more than just make donors feel like part of the team, it holds organizations accountable for ensuring funds make it to their intended destination. In an age where even reputable organizations face allegations of fraud, the importance of trust — especially with donations involving large sums of money — cannot be overstated.

Recent news of financial mismanagement of disaster relief and emergency humanitarian funds, and other fraudulent activities by some of the largest and best-known nonprofits have left many donors conflicted. Either donate blindly and hope for the best, or find a way to demand some form of accountability from the system. Before Bitcoin, providing this assurance would be as far fetched in thought as it would be in practice. But now, the system is being tested by some of the biggest names in the industry, and so far, the results have shown that it works.

Although there is still a long way to go before Bitcoin and blockchain  become the process-of-choice for nonprofits around the world, you should expect that a growing number of organizations will experiment with the technology.

For now, bitcoin donations are a gateway — a progressive and highly efficient application of modern technology that’s rapidly creating a new charitable narrative. By taking advantage of efficiencies created by Bitcoin technology, and the greater blockchain network, nonprofit organizations can pave a data roadmap that will streamline processes, add value, and increase social impact globally. With Bitcoin, we have the power to transform global impact.

Connie Gallippi founded BitGive in mid-2013, taking an early role in Bitcoin philanthropy and founding the first Bitcoin 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Through her work with BitGive, Connie has built a positive philanthropic representative foundation for the Bitcoin industry, bridging the gap between an innovative technology and its practical applications for nonprofits and humanitarian work in the developing world. Based in northern California, Connie is a well-known industry spokesperson for the social impact of Bitcoin and advocating for more diversity and equal opportunity in the digital currency community. Previously, Connie worked with environmental organizations in California for over 14 years, specializing in consulting, strategy development, policy and advocacy, funding assistance, and program management. Most notably, her work included the development and implementation of multi-million dollar programs in public funding for the environmental sector. She remains involved as a Board Member for California Urban Forests Council.

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