This is part of my ongoing series about Digital Currencies. This is my interview with Jason Shim about Bitcoin. He is the Digital Media Manager at Pathways to Education Canada and was recently featured by Greenpeace for his work getting Bitcoin donations added to his nonprofits site. He’s also my partner on this upcoming Webinar we are hosting with NTEN. Have you registered yet?
What are the risks for a nonprofit that wants to take Bitcoin? What are the benefits?
One of the risks would be that the amount of time it takes to set up outweighs the amount that is raised, but that is a risk that comes with any exploration of technology or new fundraising channel. The benefit is that by adopting Bitcoin, nonprofits can position themselves as innovative organizations that are ready to adapt to emerging forms of digital currency and will be ready for future changes.
With the IRS ruling that Bitcoin is not a currency, should nonprofits be scared to deal with it at all?
Not at all. This can be compared to donations of securities— I would recommend establishing procedures to ensure that the Bitcoins are liquidated immediately and converted into fiat currency.
How would a nonprofit even approach to start taking Bitcoin for donations? Who would they hire to enable it with their current systems?
There is an emerging industry for Bitcoin consultants, though I am not currently aware of any that specialize specifically in the nonprofit sector. I would recommend speaking to existing organizations who have implemented Bitcoin and asking for their advice. If you have a keen tech person on your staff, or as a volunteer, or board member, they could also help do the research and implementation.
If a nonprofit wanted to experiment with taking bitcoin, how would they start? Events? Galas? Mobile campaign?
The most basic way to get set up on it would be to simply integrate it into an existing website. This could be as simple as just putting up a wallet address for people to donate to, or setting up a more integrated payment gateway to also issue tax receipts.
How long before we see wide acceptance (in small to mid-size nonprofits) of Bitcoin or other digital currencies?
That really depends on the wide acceptance of Bitcoin and other digital currencies by the general public. If Bitcoin or other digital currencies gain more widespread acceptance among the general public, I think that nonprofits will react quickly as this would be an additional donation channel that they will likely not want to miss out on. Given how quickly things are moving with mobile and payment technologies, I think we’ll be seeing some really interesting developments in the next five years in the area of digital currencies.