Digital Currency: A New Way to Accept Donations?

Last month, the University of Puget Sound (UPS) announced a $10,000 donation from alum Nicholas Cary. What makes the donation unusual is that the entire transaction was processed digitally and converted into dollars using the e-commerce processor BitPay. Is this the new wave of giving?

So what’s a bitcoin? It’s a new, open-source digital currency that has no banks, FDIC regulations, transaction fees, or countries attached, and can easily be transferred through apps or computers. Bitcoins can be purchased and sold on digital marketplaces using local currency, but what might be most appealing to some users is the complete anonymity attached to bitcoins.

While some associate bitcoins with illegal trade and activity, Nicolas Cary has offered an entirely new approach to using bitcoins: charitable giving. While it is not the first time bitcoins have been used in higher education (the University of Nicosia in Cyprus accepts bitcoin for all school business, from tuition to boarding to books), it is the first sizable donation of its kind to a higher education institution in the United States. Cary has stated that he knew he wanted to give back to the UPS, where he was a double major in business leadership and international political economy. If it could lead to a new direction in fundraising, all the better. 

The university worked with Cary to develop a procedure to accept the donation and engage with the e-commerce world, which may be a growing trend in future financial transactions. Cary’s unrestricted gift will go to the university’s alumni fund. 

With the rise of bitcoin and digital currency, it may be a good time to explore new avenues for fundraising. What policies does your institution have in place to accept these kinds of gifts? Who should be the point person? If bitcoin continues to grow as it has over the last five years, we may be looking at an entirely new way of cultivating and accepting donations.

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