Bitcoin Means More Money for Innovative Charities

Rachel Dean Bitcoin Charities

The convenience of digitized currency exchange has established its prominence in a world fraught with important business and personal transactions. At a point when altruism is all too necessary, charities cannot say no to any form of donation — even Bitcoin. (For more, read: Does it matter where charities get their money from?)

Bitcoin, the decentralized cryptocurrency created and held electronically, remains a viable payment option and may get bigger in the future. For charities, the direct user-to-user exchange (the intrinsic aspect of Bitcoin and digital currencies) helps to connect a giver more easily and without any interruption from an intermediary. (After all, Bitcoin is not backed by a regulated institution.)

Some of the today’s largest charities are already accepting bitcoin payments, leading the way for other smaller groups to follow suit. Bitcoin is similar to credit in that it allows electronic transfer of funds, but it is like cash in that trading money comes with no additional charges. This means 100% of funds given to a charity reach that charity, and donations of any size are encouraged as penalties or additional fees will not be applied to small amounts. Bitcoin is typically filtered through a transaction service such as Bitpay which converts the monetary amount into cash—again, without taking a service fee. In a way, bitcoin is the integration of both credit and cash into one.

Most importantly, accepting bitcoin will create options for future generations who will likely use electronic currencies far more than generations before. Innovation never closes doors, it only opens them. Older, long-standing charities will have a way for renewing interest among individuals who know less about them, or perhaps have forgotten about them in the face of many emerging charities relevant to hodiernal concerns. The American Red Cross started accepting bitcoin in 2014 after efforts to help disaster relief funds flooded popular sites such as Reddit, which are well known trading reservoirs of information. Only time will tell how much of an impact the bitcoin option will have on donations in the future.

Does it Matter Where a Charity Get Its Money If It Goes to a Good Cause?

Rachel Dean Charity

In 2007, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $218 million to prevent polio and measles in the Niger Delta. But at the same time, the Los Angeles Times showed that the organization also invested over $400 million in oil companies that were allegedly responsible for exacerbating those very same health problems in the region. The $400 million is a drop in the bucket compared to its $43 billion asset trust endowment, but it nevertheless poses an interesting question:

Does it matter where a charity gets its money, as long as that money is going to a good cause? What if a charity can get a better financial return by investing in industries and companies that run counter to its mission? Does it matter? These are the questions charities increasingly have to ask themselves after a long string of cases where charities’ investments have been shown to contradict with their donations and grants.

It’s a particularly salient issue because as of September 2014, active charity investments earned £3.6 billion annually from £63.8 billion in reserves. Even smaller charities with a 5 or 6 digit annual income make 15% of their revenue from investments like these. And, as in the case of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, nonprofits that spread their money across a wide portfolio of investments are not immune from targeting by the press.

On the one hand, those who invest a charity’s money have a fiduciary duty to invest in order to get the best possible financial returns. But, according to the Charity Commission’s Guide for Trustees on investment matters, CC14, trustees should strike a “balance between risk and return that is right for their charity” which can include “environmental, social and governance factors.”

As long as trustees agree on the balance of risk and return, the law is on their side. But a recent study found that 78% of people would think of worse of a charity that had funds invested in activities contrary to its mission. As investment is increasingly on the radar of the donors who give to these charities, the risk of a negative change in public opinion will undoubtedly impact these charities’ investment decisions.

How Far Would You Go for a Good Cause?

Nickelback - Rachel Dean

There is brave, and then there is Jesse Carey brave.

Contributing editor of Relevant Magazine, podcaster and twitter-famous, Jesse Carey is also, as it turns out, nothing short of a modern-day martyr who has willingly condemned himself to seven days of nonstop Nickelback music for a week…for charity!

Yes, twenty-four hours, seven days a week from the 16th of February to the 22nd, to raise money for Water, a charitable organization that works to provide safe water in under-developed areas around the world. People do all kinds of things for charity – embarrassing, difficult and even dangerous things and this madness of Jesse Carey, which he summarizes as ‘the ultimate test of human endurance,’ has earned the sympathies and support of many.

The initial target of $5,000 was soon surpassed, as was the later target of $10,000 intended for building a well. The stunt has currently raised more than $25,000 with a few more days of the challenge to go. Jesse Carey’s tweets about this experience clearly reflect his utter discomfort.

“Words that have inspired me during the NickelbackChallenge: Fortitude. Resilience. Perseverance. David Blaine encased in a block of ice.”

“The Nickelback onslaught is wearing me down … I now know why no other human has attempted such a feat.”

Carey insists that the several doctors he consulted prior to undertaking the 168 hours of Nickelback Challenge has deemed the task hazardous for his health and could result in ‘irreversible damage to my ears, brain, kidneys and soul.’

Although it is not certain how many donors actually fully grasp the level of despair Nickelback’s music brings to Jesse Carey, his intentions and the cause he stands for cannot be doubted. Clean water is a privilege that is often under-appreciated in the Western community to the point of being taken for granted. Water is an international organization that works persistently to provide safe water for those who aren’t as fortunate.

100% of the proceeds from the NickelbackChallenge will be donated to further this cause and even though Jesse Carey’s method is somewhat unconventional, to say the least, his heart is in the right place. Meanwhile, for those of you having a bad day, remember this is one gal listening to Nickelback non-stop, as you read this.

The Super Bowl Ad That Led By Example

DreamingWithJeff - Rachel DeanThrough a unique partnership  that brought  Squarespace, Jeff Bridges, Wieden+Kennedy and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry, they ran a campaign that helped feed one million children.

Television ads that are played during the Super Bowl are often met with about as much anticipation as the big game itself. The New York Times has reported that for the 2015 Super Bowl,  30-second spots started at a cost of $4.5 million. This partnership was designed to not only promote a single brand, but to also feed millions of America’s hungry children.

Squarespace, which is a build-your-own-website company, found a partner in actor Jeff Bridges to promote sleep tapes called DreamingWithJeff. Mr. Bridges has been involved in the anti-hunger community for many years. He agreed to participate in this marketing campaign granted that 100% of the proceeds benefitted No Kid Hungry. The advertising agency behind the work is Wieden+Kennedy, and they orchestrated a multi-media campaign with a social media presence.

The result was a unique product that reflected Jeff Bridges’ artistry and many tens of thousands of dollars to enroll kids in school breakfast. This effort will last for an entire year because every dollar enables them to feed 10 kids.

The lesson for all  Super Bowl advertisers and nonprofits: commitment to community and creativity are a winning mix.  The New Yorker rated it among one of the best of the Super Bowl ads.

Viral Marketing And Charitable Giving Cozy Up

Food Bank For New York CityThese days, the worlds of charity and marketing are becoming increasingly intertwined. This was proven by the overwhelming success of the ALS ice bucket challenge last summer. A charitable campaign with a fun, performative twist can give a charitable endeavor a real boost amongst populations that might not necessarily be aware of your cause. This works on the flipside as well. As Adweek reports, some companies like Meow Mix are looking to draw people into their interactive campaigns by adding a charitable angle.

Meow Mix’s campaign, “It’s Meow Time” featured roll outs of celebrity remixes of the brands theme’s song. This included remixes by DJ Ashworth and country singer, Kellie Pickler. During the recording of Pickler’s version, mobile recording studios were set up in New York City so that members of the public could record their own version. Recordings made in the mobile studios or at home and then uploaded to the contest site, entered the participant into a contest to be flown to Hollywood.

Aside from the price and performance, Meow Mix sweetened the deal for participants by donating 100 cat meals to the Food Bank for New York City for every video submitted. Marketers have come to understand that performative or interactive participation is effective in drawing potential customers. This is enhanced further if the participation has some sort of charitable angle.

As profit organizations see the viral marketing potential of charitable partnerships, non-profits can expect to benefit from the marketing muscle that major corporations possess. This includes the attraction of celebrity endorsers. In the case of Meow Mix, their campaign included celebrity promotions in addition to charitable giving. During the New York recording event, Kellie Pickler did press for the event which drew attention not only to the promotion itself, but to the Food Bank for New York City as well. It even highlighting a service – meals for pets – that many people may not have be aware of.