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Bitcoin Gives Back: The Biggest Charity Drives of 2015

| Published on January 2, 2016 at 16:45 BST
Opinion

The founder of Ottawa-based consultancy Bitcoin Strategy Group, Victoria van Eyk serves as vice president of community at social tipping startup ChangeTip.

Connie Gallippi is the founder of the BitGive Foundation, the industry's first 501(c)(3) nonprofit, while Elizabeth McCauley manages its outreach and strategic partnerships

charity, giving

Given that bitcoin and the blockchain are still misunderstood in the eyes of the public, industry proponents have long sought to showcase how the digital currency’s attributes can be used to the advantage of global relief and philanthropy efforts.

For incumbent financial services firms, eager to avoid the negative connotations bitcoin can bring, such efforts are often the first step in their engagement with the industry.

This year, UK banking giant Barclays and investment firm Fidelity each announced their first foray into bitcoin and blockchain. Both projects were advertised as benefitting those in need.

Still, much of the charitable giving comes not from financial firms, but the bitcoin community, which has sought to use relief efforts as a way to highlight how the digital currency offers a low-cost way to transfer value globally.

While such efforts didn’t accrue the headline-grabbing figures they did in 2013, the community signed up more than 30 charities in 2015, according to those close to the efforts.

In this article, we review some of the most successful campaigns:

Water for Kenya

First and foremost is the possibly the community’s greatest asset, BitGive.

Among the organization’s highlights for 2015 were campaigns supporting charitable projects in Kenya, Nepal and Mexico.

Perhaps the most powerful story to share is how BitGive raised over $11,000 from the bitcoin community for the installation of a water well at the Shisango Girls School in Kenya.

The school is located in a remote area of western Kenya, and the project was built with BitGive’s partner The Water Project. This short video, sponsored by BitPesa and Libra, tells the compelling story of how bitcoin helped bring clean, safe water to the school and to more than 500 people in the surrounding community.

BitGive is fundraising now for 2016 to build a Donation Transparency Platform, the inaugural project of its Charity 2.0 Initiative that aims to revolutionize philanthropy. The platform would allow donors and the public to see exactly where funds go and how they are allocated.

The community benefits from success stories like this. These excellent bitcoin use cases were reviewed in mainstream media coverage by EntrepreneurWSJ, Fortune and Inside Philanthropy.

Education in Afghanistan

Secondly, the bitcoin community backed the successful creation of the first coding school for women in Afghanistan.

Created by Fereshteh Forough in 2014, Code to Inspire (CTI) establishes safe and secure local programming labs specifically for women in Afghanistan, where they can empower themselves in educational environments to learn coding skills.

Built over the year with community support from individuals and corporate donors, including major US retailer Overstock, the organization now has enough laptops to provide for its members. Considering the majority of female Afghanis do not have access to traditional finances, digital currencies such as bitcoin are a main pillar of CTI's work.

Some of this year's highlights include CTI’s participation in the Clinton Global Initiative Conference and the start of its HTML and CSS classes.

The community’s donations continue to do good work, and CTI is looking forward to partnering in 2016 with the bitcoin community to continue building the organization into a success.

Encouraging online giving

ChangeTip put a significant emphasis this year on building technologies to empower charities and causes worldwide.

With the launch of the company’s 'Give' page, users can now automatically transfer any received tips directly to more than 20 supported causes, including Antiwar, BitGive, CTI, the Red Cross, Direct Relief and Sean’s Outpost.

The company seeks to make charitable donations as easy as a tweet or a click, allowing people to act when calls to actions are made for assistance. ChangeTip ran campaigns this year with a number of charities, but had two notable successes.

The first was its response to the Nepal Earthquake, where community members over Twitter, Reddit and Meerkat donated aid in real time to the American Red Cross and Direct Relief. Particularly exciting was the Meerkat community's embrace of bitcoin, where livestreamers were dancing, cooking and playing piano to raise funds for the charities in need.

The second great success was the week-long, bitcoin-powered prenatal vitamin campaign run with Direct Relief.

The organization opted to run a campaign to receive both fiat and bitcoin donations to provide 2,000 nutrition-deprived expectant mothers in Sierra Leone and Liberia with adequate nutrition to ensure a safe pregnancy. The Direct Relief team is now looking to create ongoing campaigns to continue to teach their donor base about bitcoin.

Finally, to end 2015, ChangeTip is running a #socialgiving campaign from 26th to 31st December to encourage donations via their platform to the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter in Philadelphia.

For more information on this effort, visit the campaign's website here.

Refugee camp image via Shutterstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, CoinDesk.

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