Stations look to cryptocurrency as new option for donors

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As nonprofits look to expand sources of revenue, public radio and TV stations are starting to accept gifts in the form of cryptocurrency. 

WFAE in Charlotte, N.C., has partnered with The Giving Block, a service that enables nonprofits to accept donations in cryptocurrency. Jeff Bundy, executive director of branding and engagement at WFAE, said he sees potential in fundraising from cryptocurrency as its usage grows. 

“I don’t want to a year from now be saying, ‘Jeez, I really wish we’d started accepting cryptocurrencies,’” he said. 

Though the cryptocurrency market has decreased in value by more than $1 trillion since Bitcoin reached an all-time high Nov. 10, station fundraisers say it remains an important avenue to pursue. Globally, owners of cryptocurrency increased by 178% from January 2021 to December 2021, according to Crypto.com. A September 2021 survey of U.S. adults by Pew Research Center found that 16% of respondents had ever invested in, traded or owned cryptocurrency. 

Cryptocurrency donors are typically more generous than cash donors, according to The Giving Block. The average Giving Block donation is $11,000, while the average gift to a nonprofit is $128. A 2021 survey by Gemini, a cryptocurrency exchange company, found an average age of 38 among cryptocurrency donors. The average nonprofit donor is 64. 

WFAE paid a one-time setup fee to accept donations through The Giving Block. After it included the option in its year-end giving spots, WFAE received $1,000 in two direct donations and a third from a pool of general donations to The Giving Block.

Accepting gifts in cryptocurrency allows donors to give in as many ways as possible, Bundy said. The station also serves a financially savvy market, with Charlotte home to the corporate headquarters of Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Truist. 

“There are a lot of people in our community that understand finance, certainly better than I do, and are subsequently investing in cryptocurrency,” he said. WFAE has also started accepting donations via Venmo and is looking into expanding to Cash App as well.

Bundy said that the risk involved in receiving cryptocurrency donations through The Giving Block is relatively low. When a donor gives cryptocurrency for WFAE, The Giving Block immediately converts the amount to dollars and deposits it into the station’s account.  

Nonprofits looking to accept cryptocurrency donations are also working with Crypto for Charity, which was created by the legacy planning platform FreeWill. Crypto for Charity facilitates donations to the 55,000 largest nonprofits listed on GuideStar. Nonprofits can also ask to be added to or removed from the available recipients.

Prairie Public in North Dakota is on FreeWill’s waitlist as it gets set up on the platform. “Not only do we think it will engage a younger audience, but it might encourage a larger gift rather than a cash gift,” said Troy Davis, Prairie Public’s director of development. 

Prairie Public looked into accepting cryptocurrency donations after a board member asked about it, Davis said. Being able to have a “turnkey solution” that could be implemented within several months was appealing, he said. Attracting younger donors is especially important for Prairie Public, which serves a region with many tech companies and startups, such as the Microsoft campus in Fargo.

Davis said he expects Prairie Public’s FreeWill page to launch within the next month. FreeWill takes a cut of each transaction but doesn’t add on charges such as service or setup fees. According to Crypto for Charity’s website, the platform takes 3.95% of donations, which it says is equal to a credit card fee. 

Donations given through Crypto for Charity go to Cocatalyst Impact, a 501(c)(3) that the platform partnered with. The gift is then instantly liquidated and sent directly to the recipient.

WFAE’s Bundy sees the emergence of cryptocurrency in the nonprofit sector as similar to when organizations started accepting car donations: It was uncharted territory, but donors eventually started to catch on. For now, he said, WFAE will keep the cryptocurrency option open as long as listeners continue to take advantage of it.

“I kind of compare it to stock donations — we don’t promote those heavily, but we get them all the time,” he said.

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