In a Virtual Year, The Salvation Army Turns to Cryptocurrency
Crypto kettle is the latest in a range of efforts aimed to rescue Christmas
In a year like no other, with unprecedented need and fundraising challenges, The Salvation Army is turning to cryptocurrency, launching its first ever crypto kettle in the Western U.S. that allows donors to donate cryptocurrencies Bitcoin and Ethereum directly to The Salvation Army. These transactions will be as easy as making an online credit card transaction, and will come with a receipt and, perhaps most importantly, tax benefits.
“We are excited to enter a new frontier in digital giving by accepting cryptocurrency this Christmas,” said Western Territorial Commander Commissioner Douglas Riley. “After this challenging year, with more in need than ever, it’s great to be able to offer an easy way for those in the crypto community to join us in helping to rebuild lives.”
By adding an option to donate cryptocurrency, The Salvation Army joins a small section of nonprofits that accept this form of donation. While cryptocurrencies are gaining traction as a way to donate funds—with adoption increasing by up to 100 percent in 2019—only about 2 percent of charities in North America, Europe and Australia accept this form of donation, according to Nonprofit Tech for Good’s 2019 Global NGO Technology Report.
Digital asset research and analysis brand The Block found 12 percent of America’s top 100 charities—a list that includes The Salvation Army— accepted cryptocurrency in 2019. While aspects of cryptocurrency, like evolving regulations, pose challenges for nonprofits, there are a number of opportunities, too. Cryptocurrency’s value fluctuates similar to that of stock, but at the time of publication, the cryptocurrency market cap was worth more than $340 billion. A single Bitcoin, the most prominent form of cryptocurrency, is valued at $18,344, according to CoinDesk.
“There is no gold at the end of the rainbow, but with the rise in popularity and value of Bitcoin it certainly could feel like it to some crypto investors,” said Territorial Secretary for Communications Lt. Colonel Kyle Smith. “I believe the crypto community cares and could make a big difference in The Salvation Army’s efforts to help those struggling in communities across our country and even across the world.”
To help overcome many of the challenges involved with accepting cryptocurrency, The Block found 90 percent of top U.S. charities that accepted cryptocurrency also used a third-party provider to help process the donations. The Salvation Army in the Western U.S. has partnered with Engiven, a service that works with nonprofits to securely accept and liquidate cryptocurrency donations.
“We’re thrilled that The Salvation Army is [accepting cryptocurrency donations], and I think it’s smart that they’ve chosen a partner that’s very experienced in the space,” said Engiven Co-Founder James Lawrence. “I applaud them for their willingness to be innovative, and the timing is perfect.”
While the outward-facing widget for such donations will rest on a Salvation Army donation page, Engiven will handle the behind-the-scenes process of accepting and liquidating Bitcoin and Ethereum cryptocurrencies and depositing the fiat currency (USD) via an ACH deposit.
How it works
The process of donating cryptocurrency to The Salvation Army is simple. A donor with Bitcoin or Ethereum can click on a donation link available on the Western Territorial Headquarters website that will lead to Engiven’s platform, where they will fill out a form with the appropriate data. The donor then sends the cryptocurrency to the public wallet address provided. The form’s submission will synch up with the Bitcoin or Ethereum transaction to the blockchain, the public online ledger used in cryptocurrency transactions.
Engiven will be able to reference the blockchain to confirm the transaction has taken place. Once the transaction is confirmed, the nonprofit receives the cryptocurrency, and the donor receives a receipt showing the value of the currency at the moment of transaction. Through Engiven, cryptocurrency can then be converted into cash and deposited in the nonprofit’s account via an ACH transfer.
Adopting cryptocurrency as a form of donation positions The Salvation Army to keep on pace with trends in digital giving. Lawrence noted that digital giving with credit cards gained critical mass within the last decade. In comparison, he estimates that within 2-3 years, cryptocurrency will be widely accepted by most nonprofits in the U.S.
“This is a new channel for accepting donations that our other online platforms don’t accept…to provide another option for people, if that’s what they want to donate and give,” said Territorial Director of Digital Strategy Brenda Jones. “Not very many nonprofits actually accept cryptocurrency at this time…But by leveraging [Engiven’s platform], which was created specifically for nonprofits to get into this space…it gets us into it and accepting and allowing people another way to donate more dollars to us that we weren’t able to do before.”
Why is this a good move for donors?
By donating cryptocurrency directly to The Salvation Army, donors, when advised by a tax professional, can reap the tax benefits of not paying a capital gains tax that typically comes with cashing out cryptocurrency, along with getting a tax write-off for the amount donated. Bitcoin, in particular, has experienced a dramatic increase in value since its inception in 2009, so early adopters could see significant tax benefits in donating while allowing nonprofits to receive the full monetary value of their contribution.
Donors’ tax deductions will be equal to the fair market value of the donated cryptocurrency that will be determined by Engiven, making donations to the crypto kettle ideal for end of the year donations. For larger donations, Engiven can connect donors to appraisal companies that can verify the amount of the donation so it can be recognized by the IRS.
“Yes, there can be tax benefits, yes donors can use crypto to set up CRT’s and all types of giving instruments, but the greatest benefit a crypto donor will experience through giving is knowing they have done something good. That they have made a difference,” Smith said. “You see, there is something satisfying, dare I say spiritual, about giving. When someone does something good, it is the fingerprint of God on their life.”
When making a donation, donors can specify a broader cause for the funds to be applied towards, like Christmas or addictions recovery. Ultimately, funds donated via cryptocurrency will go back to help the region it was given from unless the donor specifies otherwise. Additionally, if donors would like to assist in a particular building or capital campaign through cryptocurrency donations, they can do so through contacting Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For the protection of donors and The Salvation Army, Engiven will monitor both the donor and The Salvation Army to ensure the gift meets regulatory guidelines, and that it completes successfully. When donating cryptocurrency, the crypto kettle will ask for the donor’s name and address to confirm their identity.
“A unique aspect of our processing technology is that we compare the transaction information provided by the donor with what is recorded on the blockchain, so when the crypto is transferred, we monitor the blockchain for the exact transaction,” Lawrence said. “That way, we always know that the right crypto has gone to the right place.”
In a year that saw The Salvation Army accepting donations of toilet paper, masks and even a herd of cattle to help meet unprecedented needs across the Western U.S., it’s clear every little bit helps, and the welcome addition of cryptocurrency could help turn the tide against poverty in a year filled with hardships.
Accepting cryptocurrency opens up a new donor base for The Salvation Army, too. The crypto community encompasses potential donors ranging in age—not just millennials. Lawrence noted this move by The Salvation Army honors the efforts of the crypto community, too.
“What’s powerful about The Salvation Army’s decision is that they’re essentially saying to the crypto community, ‘Hey, we value the years of effort that you’ve put in to make crypto a valid and valuable asset,’” Lawrence said. “I think that’s important, because there’s a lot of donors who keep part of their assets in crypto, and I know they want to donate to great causes.”
Especially this year, with COVID-19, and being able to place fewer kettles in public than in years past, Smith said he’s hoping the crypto kettle will be the “kryptonite” that overcomes despair and darkness for those in need this Christmas.
Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Divisional Youth Secretary Captain Jeff Walters knows both sides. He has seen the need in Hawaii firsthand and is a cryptocurrency investor.
“Cryptocurrency and blockchain are here to stay,” Walters said. “There is definitely a growing number of investors who, like myself, want to make a difference with their digital assets. We want to think forward with our donations. If I can donate in Bitcoin, that’s a powerful way to invest in the future of The Salvation Army. It is a powerful way to invest in the future of people.”