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Belgian NGO and social enterprise APOPO is now accepting bitcoin donations to fund innovative humanitarian projects in eight countries across Africa and Asia.
With the announcement, it joins an increasing number of non-profits and charities that use bitcoin to tap into new global sources of revenue. The donations are being made through a partnership with payments processor BitPay.
Notably, APOPO uses giant pouched African rats for humanitarian purposes. Nicknamed ‘HeroRATs’, the rodents are trained to detect land mines and tuberculosis using their extraordinary sense of smell.
Speaking to CoinDesk, CEO Christophe Cox emphasised the common vision of APOPO and bitcoin to empower and support people in developing economies through the means of modern technology.
“We see bitcoin as a young, unique technology that matches with our overall vision, and this is our way of giving recognition to other innovators we believe in.”
“Although there are some risks with bitcoin, such as if its legality will be challenged, we also know that early adopters of such technology tend to be at the cutting edge when it becomes an industry standard,” he added.
Since 1998, APOPO’s trained rats have found more than 37,000 unexploded land mines and bombs in six countries, and identified over 7,000 tuberculosis sufferers in Tanzania and Mozambique.
Giant pouched African rats grow up to 0.9 metres (3 ft) long including their tail. Their poor eyesight means they have evolved a very keen sense of smell. This, combined with their intelligence, placid nature and long lifespan (up to eight years), means they are ideal for training as cheap, reliable detectors of explosives or disease.
APOPO receives donations from around the globe, predominantly the US, UK, Germany and Belgium.
According to Cox, bitcoin is an obvious tool to make it easier for supporters to get involved wherever they are, and he expects bitcoin will be one of APOPO’s mainstream donation channels in the future.
“There are clear advantages to receiving bitcoin donations over traditional methods, such as lower or no transaction fees, and as a way of reaching a younger online audience who are aware of global issues and savvy with new technology.”
APOPO is not the only non-profit organisation seeing the potential in bitcoin. Last month, the Ghana start-up Bitcoin Against Ebola was launched, alongside charities such as Save the Children, American Red Cross and Greenpeace, which have all joined the bitcoin community.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk founder Shakil Khan is an investor in BitPay.
Bitcoin’s social and philanthropic use cases have emerged as arguably one of the most powerful arguments for the fast-growing but still fledgling digital currency and technology.
This year, the bitcoin community is seeking to highlight this aspect of the cryptocurrency with Bitcoin Giving Tuesday, which takes place today.
Notably, the BitGive Foundation, Bitcoin Foundation, BitPay, Bitcoin Black Friday, Circle and ChangeTip are all participating in the campaign – an extension of the global #GivingTuesday event that aims to encourage and celebrate generosity.
BitGive founder and executive director Connie Gallippi said the announcement is a soft launch for what she hopes will become an annual event.
Gallippi told CoinDesk:
“With plans for Bitcoin Black Friday already well underway, we planned for cross promotion and a soft launch of Bitcoin Giving Tuesday this year. Next year, BitGive will lead Bitcoin Giving Tuesday as a separate but co-branded event with Bitcoin Black Friday and the rest of our partners.”
Bitcoin-accepting non-profits like Save the Children, American Red Cross, Greenpeace, UnitedWay and the Water Project, among others, are all involved in the initiative and will accept donations in bitcoin through the Bitcoin Giving Tuesday website.
In August, BitGive became the first nonprofit bitcoin organization to achieve 501(c)(3) status, making it officially recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a tax-exempt charitable organization in the US.
Gallippi said BitGive aims to raise awareness of the benefits of bitcoin to nonprofit work with reduced fees and transaction costs, welcome new charities into the bitcoin community and promote the work of nonprofit organizations.
The Bitcoin Giving Tuesday website states:
“Charitable giving should not pad the pockets of credit card companies, banks or any other financial middlemen. 100% of funds given through Bitcoin Giving Tuesday will go to the nonprofit you choose.”
Tipping service ChangeTip is also promoting Bitcoin Giving Tuesday as part of its #TippingTuesday campaign which seeks to engage users tipping in bitcoin on a number of social media avenues including GitHub, Reddit and Twitter.
Tipping has always been a point of interest for those in the bitcoin community, as it may hold the potential to drive broader bitcoin adoption and encourage micropayments, thereby breaking down barriers in developing countries.
However, the community has only recently begun to see signs of increased tipping activity among users.
ChangeTip has reported a recent surge in volume and interest from consumers, citing 10,000 transactions in one day. In the same month, bitcoin services company Coinbase has introduced its own tipping tool.
Global charity Save the Children has announced it is now accepting bitcoin donations through a partnership with payment processor BitPay.
“We have already seen the generosity of the bitcoin community, and working with BitPay allows us to keep 100% of the donations, helping us serve even more children,” said Ettore Rossetti, director of digital marketing and social media at Save the Children.
Elizabeth Ploshay, head of non-profit outreach for BitPay said Save the Children showcases the advantages of bitcoin for charities – there are no fees and no minimum donations, and bitcoin-friendly charities can count on the support of the enthusiastic bitcoin community.
Credit and debit cards, on the other hand, bring higher fees and the risk of donations from fraudulent cards, which cost the charity in bank charges when the money is returned. As a result, small donations are hardly worth collecting.
Last year, Save the Children distributed aid to more than 143 million children around the world, from the US to Africa. Much of the organisation’s focus this year has been on West Africa, which is going through the deadliest Ebola epidemic in history.
Save the Children became involved in bitcoin-related campaigns late last year, when it took part in a campaign to raise bitcoin donations for Typhoon Haiyan Relief, hosted by the BitGive Foundation.
The success of the campaign and the relationship with the BitGive Foundation prompted Save the Children to embrace bitcoin donations. “Accepting bitcoin donations seemed like a natural next step for us,” said Rossetti.
Bitcoin donations will benefit Save the Children’s Relief Fund to help combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which has claimed 6,000 lives so far.
Save the Children is already on the ground in the region, providing assistance and working with health ministries in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The organisation is building Ebola health centres and caring for children orphaned by the outbreak, as well as training health workers and providing them with essential medical equipment.
“Save the Children is one of the first large non-profit organisations to start accepting bitcoin donations,” the organisation said in a statement.
As spelled out by Ploshay, bitcoin offers several advantages that make it an appealing payments choice for non-profit organisations and, although adoption has been limited, charities are now starting to see the plus side of digital currencies.
Two months ago, United Way became the biggest charity to accept bitcoin donations. Notably, United Way is one of the largest privately held non-profit organisations in the world, raising more than $5bn every year.
Earlier this month, Ghanaian remittances startup Beam launched a donations hub to raise funds for charities involved in fight against Ebola. The Sierra Leone Liberty Group, a group of bitcoin entrepreneurs, also joined the fight against the deadly virus in October.
A number of other charities have also embraced bitcoin in recent months, such as the American Red Cross, Greenpeace USA and the UK’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Of course, it is worth mentioning Sean’s Outpost, a Florida-based homeless outreach organisation, which has long relied on bitcoin.
Some of the biggest bitcoin companies, including payment processors BitPay and Coinbase, have also done their part by waiving fees for charities and making donations of their own.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk founder Shakil Khan is an investor in BitPay.
Amid protests, riots and overall unrest in the aftermath of a grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, the residents of Ferguson, Missouri are finding solace in an unlikely place: the city’s public library.
Demonstrations in protest of the jury’s decision have been taking place all week in Ferguson and around the US, as people in major metropolitan areas across the nation show their solidarity. As a result, many local businesses in the St Louis suburb have closed their doors, and schools in the area have shut down for the week.
The Ferguson Public Library started to receive attention Tuesday for being one of the only local businesses still open to the public, and many who are closely following the situation in Ferguson as it dominates media outlets in the US took to social media to raise funds on behalf of the library.
After he sent a tweet directing his followers to donate to the Ferguson Public Library, Tom Kysar from decentralized crowdfunding platform Koinify responded by requesting the library accept bitcoin donations:
Not long after, the Ferguson Public Library’s Twitter account followed up by asking Kysar and Andreessen how it might go about setting up bitcoin donations, joking that its auditor “will enjoy figuring out BTC next year”.
A number of people in the bitcoin community voiced their support for the Ferguson Public Library and its move to accept bitcoin donations. Reddit user /u/kysarkoin (presumably Koinify’s Kysar, mentioned above) urged redditors to show their support:
“We have the chance to really show what BTC is all about here. Donations, 100% going right to them. Most places in Ferguson are shut down right now (including the schools), they’re open every day running sessions for kids missing school, showers, WiFi, etc. They’re also working with the state to help businesses recover with lost documentation / paperwork and get back on their feet.”
Though the Ferguson Public Library sent a tweet assuring bitcoiners that it was currently working out some “glitches” earlier today, the library has since thanked everybody who has donated thus far (not only with bitcoin donations), announcing it has received more than 3,000 donations:
Disclaimer: CoinDesk founder Shakil Khan is an investor in BitPay.
The American Red Cross has announced that it will now accept bitcoin through a partnership with BitPay.
Founded in 1881, the American Red Cross is the official US affiliate of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. The humanitarian organisation provides disaster relief and emergency assistance in the US and posted total operating revenues and expenses of $3.4bn for its fiscal year 2013.
In a statement, BitPay’s non-profit outreach leader Elizabeth Ploshay voiced her belief that the partnership would help showcase the generosity of bitcoin consumers to yet another charitable organisation, and by extension, the US public.
Ploshay, who also holds a board member seat at bitcoin’s chief trade organisation, the Bitcoin Foundation, said:
“Bitcoin users are extremely passionate people who are looking to put their bitcoin towards good causes. I’m sure the community will be excited to have such an established charity to donate to.”
The American Red Cross, in turn, suggested that the move would enable it to reach a new demographic of donors.
“This gives a new generation of supporters the opportunity to help people in need,” Jennifer Niyangoda, executive director of corporate and foundation programs at American Red Cross, said in an official release.
The website asks users to choose their donation amount in their desired currency. Those who make contributions must also provide a full name, email address, physical address and phone number.
BitPay further announced that the American Red Cross would participate in Bitcoin Black Friday, an annual event aiming to highlight shopping opportunities in the bitcoin space.
The American Red Cross will appear on the official Bitcoin Black Friday website, and the official Bitcoin Giving Tuesday website.
Bitcoin entrepreneur and now philanthropist Roger Ver has doubled an earlier pledge of $10,000 in bitcoin to the activist site Antiwar.com, now promising to match up to $20,000 in donations from the public.
Ver first pledged up to $10,000 in matching BTC donations to the “non-interventionist” campaign site in August, hitting that target in about a month, following over 300 individual contributions. The current campaign runs until 14th December.
Antiwar.com began accepting bitcoin donations in November 2012, director of operations Angela Keaton told CoinDesk, saying “But we had debated it for a while. We put a lot of thought into it. Still do.”
The site’s audience tends to be early adopters with an interest in alternate currencies, she said.
The team had received a number of requests from readers who were mining bitcoin and wanted to use it to donate. Despite being grateful for the offers, Keaton said she remained sceptical of bitcoin for a while.
However, it was only when Keaton attended a bitcoin conference in San Diego last year, meeting some of its 2000 attendees face-to-face, that she was fully converted.
“I saw these really amazing, brilliant young minds that understood instinctively what was wrong, they were very anti-authoritarian, very much decentralized, in governance and their approaches to life… I said ‘my god, I do want to get this’.”
Ver’s leadership in the bitcoin community, she added, and his well-known political views, mean campaigning for Antiwar.com is a natural fit.
“Roger has spoken out a lot on anarchism, he’s very outspokenly anti-war, and he’s a leader in the bitcoin movement … the way he talks about peace is really inspirational to a lot of us.”
The Antiwar.com website is a repository of news writing and opinion columns on non-aggression and pacifist causes, with up-to-date information on conflicts happening around the world.
The team also engages in other campaigns, calls to action and joins fellow anti-war coalitions, but due to the current situation with intervention against ISIS and controversy surrounding the defeat of the USA Freedom Act (anti-surveillance and monitoring), the team is trying to keep matters focused on news and commentary.
First launched during the Clinton era, Antiwar.com says it is “devoted to the cause of non-interventionism and is read by libertarians, pacifists, leftists, greens, and independents alike”.
Its mostly-anonymous nature is often touted as being effective for donations to political causes, where some people would prefer not to associate their names with campaigns through credit-card transactions.
Ver, once a prolific investor in bitcoin companies, has turned his attention to activism and in recent times promoting bitcoin and several political causes.
In November 2013 he made a 1000 BTC donation (worth $1m at the time) to the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEE) and he has previously donated for retweets of his link to the Free Ross Ulbricht campaign.
His recently created site Bitcoin Bounty Hunter promises bitcoin rewards for anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of notable bitcoin-world crimes, including the Mt Gox theft and the more recent hacks of his own and Satoshi Nakamoto’s online accounts.
Unable to ignore the Ebola crisis in neighbouring Sierra Leone, Ghana-based remittances service Beam has launched a donations hub to raise funds for charities fighting the outbreak.
The website will effectively act as a conduit for people in other parts of the world to send donations via bitcoin to two registered NGOs working in Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone Liberty Group and LunchBoxGift. It is also possible to remit money to family or friends affected by the crisis.
To get the funds to people on the ground, Beam has partnered with Splash Mobile Money, Sierra Leone’s largest mobile money provider. Nikunj said transaction fees cost just 2% – half going to Beam, half to Splash.
“This is necessary to cover certain operational costs,” Nikunj said. “The recipients do not have to pay any extra money to cash out the money. 2% is the entire cost of getting cash to Sierra Leone … Our exchange rate and lack of fixed fee is simply unbeatable.”
Donations can be as low as $1, and the charities receive the funds in minutes, according to the CEO, who stressed:
“This is a non-profit initiative and we do not make any money out of this.”
While Ebola has not yet reached Ghana, the neighbouring countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have suffered greatly from the deadly virus. Official estimates say almost 5,000 people have died, but the actual count is suspected to be much higher.
“Entire villages have been wiped out by the disease,” said Nikunj.
The charities supported by Beam are working on a much smaller scale than major organisations. However, Nikunj indicated that after interacting with NGOs in Sierra Leone, he found that small efforts in education and provision of supplies can also make a big difference.
“There is a lack of awareness on how the disease is spread. Some people even believe that the disease is ‘fake’ and this is a plot by the government against them. Due to this, there is a need for people on the ground in these countries educate the public on Ebola and how it can be prevented.”
One of Beam’s featured charities, Sierra Leone Liberty Group, has been combatting this ignorance by promoting effective hygiene amongst local populations. Since the disease is highly contagious and easily transmitted through contact with body fluids like sweat and saliva, SLLG has also been discouraging people from shaking hands and sharing food.
Another issue for those fighting the disease or living in hard-hit areas is that food and medicines have to be delivered to patients and healthcare workers.
Making the issue even more complex, governments often quarantine affected homes and sometimes issue lockdowns of entire cities for days to prevent the spread of Ebola.
Under these restrictions, it is extremely difficult for people to gain access to food and other supplies, and NGOs play a critical role in providing essential resources before a lockdown begins.
Beam’s second supported charity, LunchBoxGift provides freshly cooked lunches to these people, with each meal costing just £1 ($1.60).
Lunchboxgift is aiming to provide 50,000 hot meals to hospitalised patients and frontline healthcare workers in Ebola treatment centres over the next three months. This, the charity says, is particularly necessary because the isolation of patients means that their families cannot get food to them in the usual way.
The conference is organized by Ghana’s Dream Bitcoin Foundation (DBF), which shares the principles of the SLLG and believes economic freedom transcending national boundaries is the best way to build African economies.
The DBF’s campaign page for the seminar reads:
“We will also demonstrate to them how bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are the irrepressible tool for Liberty, which will rapidly replace the existing corrupt system that keeps them all in poverty and suppression.”
The DBF is working in conjunction with bitcoin entrepreneurs both locally and from the US. In addition to organizing the conference, the DBF is also experimenting with the idea of its own local cryptocurrency, called Dreamcoin, as a promotional and educational tool.
Both DBF and SLLG hope that cryptocurrency use, bitcoin or otherwise, will streamline local economies as well as open up new markets internationally for local sellers.
Images courtesy Sierra Leone Liberty Group
Bitcoin charity Sean’s Outpost is appealing for funds after running into financial problems following the recent decrease in the price of bitcoin.
In a Facebook post, the Florida-based charity, which relies on bitcoin donations to provide meals and shelter to the homeless, said: “The recent price drop in BTC has played havoc with our finances and we are down to the bone right now.”
The charity reached out to the community on Thursday, following several weeks of weak bitcoin prices.
Over the past month, the price of bitcoin has gone down from $485 to $362 at press time. Last week, the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index briefly dipped to $295, the lowest point since early November 2013.
In its Facebook announcement, Sean’s Outpost said it has used its funding to distribute over 120,000 meals to the needy so far. The organisation currently provides 2,000 meals per week and caters to more than 400 homeless in the city of Pensacola.
“We are the largest provider of meals to the homeless in Escambia County, Florida, by a wide margin. And we feed rain or shine,” the charity said.
Jason King, founder of Sean’s Outpost, told CoinDesk that the bulk of the money is spent on food and running its Satoshi Forest facility:
“It costs around $11,000 a month to run Sean’s Outpost. That’s the cost of 8,000+ meals a month plus mortgage and utilities on Satoshi Forest.”
King added that the non-profit operates on a very tight budget, substantially smaller than similar charities operating in the area.
According to King, Sean’s Outpost was never able to meet its expenses purely through donations, meaning the founders often had to pitch in to make ends meet. With the bitcoin price so low, this gap has widened.
Operating under such a tight budget leaves the charity at the mercy of the rises and falls of the bitcoin price, leaving it unable to hold bitcoin until a better return can be achieved.
“Price effects us because we have to sell no matter what. We have an obligation to feed all the people we feed every day, regardless of the price. So when the price of bitcoin falls sharply, in the short term, it effects our runway in terms of ‘weeks-worth of meals’ we have liquidity to provide.”
Furthermore, the charity had hoped to establish an endowment this year in an effort to minimize cash flow issues. However, recent downward price pressure has derailed those plans, forcing the organisation take a “hand to mouth” approach for the time being.
Since its inception, Sean’s Outpost has raised over 470 BTC from 1,925 donations, which equates to more than $171,000 at current bitcoin prices.
However, the actual dollar value of bitcoin donations made to the charity would be somewhat higher, as a majority were made when the price was significantly above today’s (with a historical peak at around $1,100 per coin in December 2013). The charity’s current bitcoin balance is 1.56 BTC.
Despite the current appeal for additional funding, King said Sean’s Outpost is committed to feeding the homeless no matter what happens to the bitcoin price.