Charity, Bitcoin, and the BitGive Foundation
Little did I know when I set off to the Bitcoin Foundation’s conference in San Jose, California last year that my life was about to change dramatically. The conference was one of the first all-Bitcoin events of such magnitude ever held — hard to comprehend now with the litany of Bitcoin events happening what seems like daily around the world.
I had already known the power and the potential of Bitcoin was revolutionary; but things really clicked when I was immersed in the energy of that conference. Surrounded by enthusiastic entrepreneurs, brilliant programmers, and Angel and Venture Capital investors in the heart of Silicon Valley, I knew this was the next .com boom.
Having a background in nonprofits, my natural inclination was to capture the beauty of Bitcoin in ways that would allow the community to give back. Practically instantly and quite magically, the BitGive Foundation was conceived.
BitGive focuses on charitable giving and demonstrating Bitcoin’s social value on a global scale. With every opportunity we have to talk publicly about our work, we begin with the story of Bitcoin’s social value. This is the true beauty of Bitcoin and why it will revolutionize our world.
It is clear that demonstrating the social value of Bitcoin is a win-win for both charitable organizations and the Bitcoin community. Not only are charitable efforts helping those in need, this type of application of Bitcoin can help bridge the gap from early adopters to mainstream users. Donations provide something that people can relate to and also offer an easy on-ramp to Bitcoin.
We are now celebrating our 1-year anniversary, and we already have some successful charitable efforts under our belt, including $4,850 (BTC eq.) raised in one day for Save the Children’s Philippines Typhoon Relief Efforts. Our current campaign for The Water Project has raised over $7,000 (BTC eq.) to provide clean, safe water to a community in sub-Saharan Africa.
So what do we mean when we say the social value of Bitcoin? The Bitcoin community knows well the many benefits the cryptocurrency provides, and I believe those benefits apply even more powerfully to the charitable community. Peer-to-peer transactions anytime, anywhere allow us to access the most remote places of the world directly with aid and support. Of course the technology is new and pieces of the ecosystem are still being put into place; however, soon through SMS transactions, we will be able to reach the need – directly. This blows open a global donor market in a single consistent currency to charitable organizations working in the most remote and impoverished parts of the world.
Reduced fees and the ability to transact directly without governments or banks interfering means more of the funds actually go to the cause, and make micro-donations more feasible and effective. Oftentimes traditional philanthropic channels cannot reach remote areas, and when they can, the many stages in the support process open up the opportunity for fraud, and funding may not get where it was originally intended.
Bitcoin also provides an avenue of freedom to give to causes and organizations that are of personal importance when you may not feel comfortable having your charitable gifts be public knowledge for a variety of reasons. We face a number of issues today that are politically charged or polarizing; and yet many are extremely important issues that must be addressed. Bitcoin offers a way to support such causes without public scrutiny or backlash.
The fact that Bitcoin holds its value in places where there is a government-controlled currency is also of significant importance to the charitable sector. In countries such as Argentina, where inflation rates are well over 20 percent, a charitable organization already relying on donations to make ends meet is destined to fail. Bitcoin provides a storage of value that remains intact and not manipulated by the government. It can allow for a more consistent exchange of value in these environments, which could quite literally mean more meals or school books for the children of the community.
The last — and perhaps most compelling — benefit of Bitcoin for charitable causes is its increase in value over time. Bitcoin’s value has risen from just pennies to over $600 per BTC at the time of this writing; and as a deflationary currency, is expected to rise in value over the long term. This allows for charitable organizations to have that much more of an impact.
Building on this, the BitGive Foundation is developing a long-term fund that will function similar to an endowment. Bitcoin holdings that increase over time will provide a sustainable and robust fund from which to give back. Our current holdings are already at six times their original value, yet we still have a long way to go. Support us in moving the needle on the important issues facing our world today, leveraging the power of Bitcoin for social good.