United Way To Accept Bitcoin Digital Donations

September 15, 2014       Zach Halper      

United Way Worldwide (UWW) is joining the digital currency world, announcing that it would begin accepting bitcoin donations. It is the latest 501(c)(3) to adopt the digital currency.

The Alexandria, Va.-based organization will use incoming bitcoin donations — which will be processed into cash through the bitcoin processor Coinbase — for its Innovation fund, which aims to help change the social sector with projects focused on technology, relationships and efficiency to power the group’s worldwide movement.

UWW joins organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) as one of the growing number of nonprofits that accept donations in bitcoins. Even more recently, the BitGive Foundation became the first organization that exclusively accepts bitcoins to get 501(c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

“Achieving United Way’s vision for the world – where all individuals and families achieve their human potential – requires innovation powered by new technology and outreach methods,” said Brian A. Gallagher, president and CEO of UWW. In that spirit, integrating bitcoin donations with the United Way Worldwide Innovation Fund helps us achieve this crucial goal. In addition, as the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit, United Way seeks to lead the way for others by taking bold steps to grow our organization, and we are delighted to do so again today.”

Launched in 2009, bitcoins are a digital currency that has quickly gained popularity and controversy. Part of that controversy comes from the currency’s perceived volatility, which stems from the 2013 crash of Mt. Gox, a bitcoin exchange based in Japan. During that period, 850,000 bitcoins valued at $450 million went missing and, as of this writing, 650,000 of those bitcoins were still missing with no explanation given as to how they disappeared.

This incident hasn’t stopped organizations such as UWW from accepting bitcoins, but it is one of the reasons they convert the currency into cash immediately.

According to the firm, the Coinbase platform is used by over 1.6 million consumers, 36,000 merchants, and 6,000 developers worldwide, UWW will accept donations to the Innovation Fund directly from a donor’s digital wallet via desktop or a smartphone without any transaction fees. The partnership with Coinbase comes a few weeks after the company announced it would waive all exchange fees for registered 501(c)(3) organizations.

“United Way Worldwide recognizes Bitcoin as an emerging technology that is impacting charitable giving by reducing the costs associated with receiving online payments,” said Brian Armstrong, Co-founder and CEO of Coinbase. “We are pleased to partner with United Way Worldwide and help donors around the world contribute to the organization’s impactful initiatives.”

Donors interested in contributing to the Innovation Fund using bitcoins can do so by visiting www.unitedway.org/bitcoin