The CEO of popular bitcoin website Blockchain.info has donated $10,000 in bitcoin to the university he attended as a student.
Nic Cary graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Business Leadership Program at Washington State’s University of Puget Sound in 2007. On 11th February he gave something back, contributing 14.5 BTC to the University for its 2013-14 Alumni Fund.
“I was really lucky to be able to attend the University of Puget Sound and I had a wonderful experience – I developed amazing lifelong friendships and was challenged personally and academically every day,” Cary said, adding that he wanted to get others on the road to success.
“If it hadn’t been for bitcoin I would still be paying back my student loans. My circumstances have put me in a position to give back and help some other students, so I’m hopeful I can make a small difference.”
He believes his could be the first bitcoin gift ever given to an American college or university.
Sherry Mondou, Vice President for Finance and Administration at the university, said she was “delighted” when she heard Nic wanted to make the donation.
“At the same time, we were a little uncertain how to proceed, as we had no gift policy on digital currencies and were unfamiliar with the process. But we greatly welcomed Nic’s thoughtful initiative and felt it would serve us well to learn to engage with the e-commerce world,” she added.
The University won’t be holding a position in bitcoin. Instead, it set up an account with bitcoin processor BitPay, which conducted the transaction based on the BTC/USD exchange rate at the time.
When is the right time to donate?
That raises an interesting question: when is the right time to donate bitcoin? It’s a volatile currency, and the price tanked just before Cary made his donation. Had he made it a week before, the University would have received around $2,200 more if it had converted that week. Should bitcoin recover from its current Gox-induced fugue state, the chances are it’ll be worth that much again, or more, in time.
How much should donors monitor the market before sending coins that will be instantly converted to fiat?
“I’m sure some people will think I was foolish for making a donation in the middle of last week’s turbulence (especially since the price was down),” said Cary. “I’m just not that worried about timing. I made my gift and look forward to making more in the future to amazing and deserving causes wherever they are in the world.”
Connie Gallippi, sister of BitPay CEO Tony Gallippi, runs a charitable foundation called the BitGive Foundation, which focuses on bitcoin-based donations. She admits that volatility is an issue when cashing out immediately.
“Of course for others who see the long-term benefit and value increase of BTCs, they may decide not to cash them out right away,” she said. “I would consider it the same as donating stock. The recipient can decide whether to sell/cash out, or hang on to them and see what happens or integrate into a long-term funding strategy or ‘rainy day’ fund or whatever they choose.”
Maintaining a position in donated bitcoins makes it more complex from a taxation perspective, however, and Gallippi points out that there is still no firm guidance from the IRS. BitGive will claim donations in bitcoins similar to how organizations would handle any in-kind donation of value, such as a vehicle, she told CoinDesk.
Cary is a relative newcomer to Blockchain, assuming the CEO role in November 2013. Before that he was Manager of Customer Operations at Pipelinedeals.com, a position he assumed shortly after graduating.
The University of Puget Sound has produced at least one other bitcoin luminary: Erik Voorhees, who sold SatoshiDice last year, graduated from there in the same year as Cary.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk founder Shakil Khan is an investor in BitPay.
‘Time to give’ image via Shutterstock