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More impact, more privacy: the benefits of donating (and accepting) crypto

By Author


, December 3, 2019

, 8 min read time


In December 2017, an anonymous person named “Pine” created the Pineapple Fund as “an experiment in philanthropy with cryptocurrency.” Pine donated $55 million worth of bitcoin to 60 different charitable organizations focused on everything from the environment and mental health to social justice and homelessness.

In time for GivingTuesday, a global giving movement that has inspired millions of people across the globe to collectively donate over $1 billion, many people are contemplating how to make the biggest impact with their charitable donations.

While the majority of donors prefer to donate via a credit card, giving (and receiving) in crypto is an increasingly popular choice for both individuals and organizations. Some of the world’s most well-known charitable organizations, such as Red Cross and United Way, already accept cryptocurrency. And UNICEF recently announced that they’ll become the first United Nations Organization to hold and make transactions in cryptocurrency, setting up a designated Cryptocurrency Fund that will hold crypto and grant crypto. Being able to quickly donate funds anonymously (like Pine) to a philanthropic organization, from any country in the world, without incurring high fees, is a technological innovation unique to crypto that is making donations more efficient, equitable, and easy.

The Benefits of Donating Crypto

Crypto can help address privacy and data protection issues, which are increasingly relevant to donors. “Privacy rights are a growing concern,” according to the 2018 Global Trends in Giving Report, a report published by the non-profit Public Interest Registry that summarizes donor data across six continents and tracks how technology affects giving. As that report notes, “92% want organizations to make a concerted effort to protect their contact and financial information from data breaches.”

Donating crypto directly to an organization could potentially result in more funds going to causes you care about.

How might that work exactly?

Let’s say you hypothetically bought $2,000 worth of bitcoin over a year ago. Its fair market value is now $5,500. You decide to donate the full amount, $5,500 (which happens to match the average U.S. charitable contribution in 2017) to your favorite IRS recognized charitable organization.

Scenario 1: Sell bitcoin and donate in dollars. If you were to sell the bitcoin first and then donate dollars, you might incur a long term capital gains rate of up to 20% (not accounting for additional Medicare surtax or state/local tax); the tax liability could be $700.

Final donation received: Approximately $4,800.

Scenario 2: Donate bitcoin directly. If you were to donate the bitcoin directlyinstead, your tax deductible contribution could go much further. With a direct donation, you might not have to pay capital gains tax on the bitcoin.

Final donation received: Approximately $5,500.

The Benefits of Accepting Crypto

While donating money through the internet is a common behavior, the method you use can greatly affect the amount of money the organization ultimately receives at the end of the day. According to the 2018 Global Trends in Giving Report, 54% of donors worldwide prefer to donate online via debit or credit card. However, according to an article in Charity Navigator, a non-profit organization that rates online donation processors, charities can incur processing fees that range anywhere from 2.2 to 7.5%.

How much of a difference might that make? Let’s say you wanted to donate $1,000 to a charity.

Scenario 1: Accepting a donation made via credit card. If someone donated dollars using a credit card, the processing fees incurred by the charity could be as high as $75.

Final donation received: $925

Scenario 2: Accepting a donation made via crypto. If that person made the same donation in bitcoin instead, the network transaction fee would only cost around $0.31. (This is factoring in a current median transaction fee of $0.31, according to

Final donation received: $999.69

Organizations looking to take advantage of the benefits of crypto without the volatility risk can also accept donations in USDC or similar stablecoins. USDC is a cryptocurrency that is fully backed and redeemable for US Dollars. Any organization with Coinbase Commerce enabled is set up to accept USDC.

15 philanthropies that accept crypto

Whether you’re looking to support initiatives around clean water, early-childhood education, or human rights, dozens of organizations are already set up to accept donations today in crypto. As examples, the following 15 organizations represent a wide variety of interests:

Electronic Freedom Foundation: “Founded in 1990, EFF champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development. We work to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows.” Accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ethereum.

Freedom of the Press Foundation: “The organization works to preserve and strengthen First and Fourth Amendment rights guaranteed to the press through a variety of avenues, including the development of encryption tools, documentation of attacks on the press, training newsrooms on digital security practices, and advocating for the public’s right to know.” Accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, and ZCash. In 2018, Coinbase co-founder Brian Armstrong founded GiveCrypto, a nonprofit that distributes cryptocurrency to people living in poverty. GiveCrypto has distributed over $300k of cryptocurrency to over 5,000 people in 13 different countries. Accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, and USDC via Coinbase Commerce.

Greenpeace: “Greenpeace is a global, independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.” Accepts Bitcoin.

Internet Archive: “We began in 1996 by archiving the Internet itself, a medium that was just beginning to grow in use. Like newspapers, the content published on the web was ephemeral — but unlike newspapers, no one was saving it. Today we have 20+ years of web history accessible through the Wayback Machine and we work with 625+ library and other partners through our Archive-It program to identify important web pages.” Accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, XRP, and ZCash.

Human Rights Foundation: “We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. HRF unites people in the common cause of defending human rights and promoting liberal democracy. Our mission is to ensure that freedom is both preserved and promoted around the world.” Accepts Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Institute for Spending Reform: “We are the only nationwide organization focused only on researching and promoting solutions to the nation’s spending and debt problems. Our mission is to educate the general public and policymakers alike on the realities of our national finances and to provide practical and useful options for fixing things.” Accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin.

Khan Academy: “Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. We tackle math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more. Our math missions guide learners from kindergarten to calculus using state-of-the-art, adaptive technology that identifies strengths and learning gaps.” Accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Ethereum.

Lava Mae: “Lava Mae is a San Francisco–based nonprofit that delivers mobile showers and other critical services to the street, where people moving through homelessness need them most. Founded by Doniece Sandoval in 2013, we began by converting public transportation buses into showers and toilets on wheels to deliver hygiene to our neighbors moving through homelessness.” Accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, and USDC via Coinbase Commerce.

Rainforest Foundation: “The Rainforest Foundation works on-the-ground to secure land rights for indigenous people. We strengthen indigenous land security and train indigenous communities to use technology to protect their forests. By investing directly in indigenous communities, we connect people who are deeply motivated to conserve their ancestral lands with the tools, training, and resources necessary to protect their rainforests.” Accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin.

The Reagent Project: “At The Reagent Project, we aim to match excess scientific equipment and reagents languishing in labs across the U.S. with talented, under-resourced researchers who need those very items.” Accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, and USDC via Coinbase Commerce.

Red Cross: “The international Red Cross and Red Crescent network is the largest humanitarian network in the world with a presence and activities in almost every country. All Red Cross and Red Crescent activities have one central purpose: to help those who suffer, without discrimination, whether during conflict, in response to natural or man-made disasters, or due to conditions of chronic poverty.” Accepts Bitcoin via Bitpay (note: Bitpay may charge a conversion fee).

Tor Project: “We, at the Tor Project, fight every day for everyone to have private access to an uncensored internet, and Tor has become the world’s strongest tool for privacy and freedom online. But Tor is more than just software. It is a labor of love produced by an international community of people devoted to human rights.” Accepts Bitcoin, Augur, Dash, Litecoin, Monero, Stellar Lumen, ZCash, and Ethereum.

The Water Project: “The Water Project, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization unlocking human potential by providing reliable water projects to communities in sub-Saharan Africa who suffer needlessly from a lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation.” Accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, and USDC via Coinbase Commerce.

United Way: “United Way envisions a world where every individual has an opportunity to succeed, and entire communities thrive as a result. We’re getting a little closer everyday, with help from millions of people around the world. Our work is fueled by the passion of 2.8 million volunteers and 9.8 million donors who give their time, their money and their voice to improve the lives of others.” Accepts Bitcoin via Bitpay (note: Bitpay may charge a conversion fee).

Looking to accept crypto at your organization? It’s as easy as setting up a Coinbase Commerce account. Within minutes, you’ll be able to accept donations of five different cryptocurrencies.

Coinbase doesn’t provide tax advice. Prior to making any donations, please consult a tax-planning professional regarding your personal tax circumstances.

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