Update (17:30 BST 28th November): Updated with comment from Ettore Rossetti, director of digital marketing and social media at Save the Children USA.
Global charity Save the Children has announced it is now accepting bitcoin donations through a partnership with payment processor BitPay.
The charity said it had started accepting bitcoin through its personalised BitPay donation page just in time for the winter holidays.
“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.
Nonprofits measure their fundraising efficiency on cost to raise a dollar but speed to raise a dollar is important too. In the past, donors would mail in checks in order to donate and some still do. We have to wait for the mail and then for the check to clear. Credit cards and e-commerce have accelerated the transaction process, which is helpful during rapid onset emergencies in particular. We think that bitcoin will minimize chargebacks and since BitPay waives fees, more of the net donation actually comes to us.
Emphasis on Africa
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.
"We need need all the help we can get to stop Ebola. We hope that accepting bitcoin demonstrates our willingness to innovate and evolve in order to stay contemporary and to inspire new donors to donate to us who may never had done so before," Rossetti told CoinDesk.
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.
A use case for bitcoin
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.
Individuals like Roger Ver have also made notable donations to good causes, not to mention countless anonymous bitcoiners around the world who put their bitcoins to good use.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk founder Shakil Khan is an investor in BitPay.
Featured image via Save the Children Canada/Flickr