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United Way partners with bitcoin to streamline donations

United Way aims for its Innovation Fund to intervene in literacy programs and use data to expand its services to children in need of literacy development. By partnering with Coinbase, a platform with over 1.6 million users, United Way is hoping to streamline donations and make contributions via mobile devices simple for patrons.

“The decision to partner with Coinbase was moved by the fact that they have over one and a half million users, and it takes the financial risk out for a non-profit,” said Evan Hochberg, chief strategy officer at United Way Worldwide. “We have a big mission and it is imperative to reach out and make it easy for millions around the world to engage with us.”

Digital wallets for donors
The Coinbase platform enables users to donate directly to the Innovation Fund from their digital wallets and circumvent transaction fees, which is certain to be a point of interest for consumers looking for all of their contributions to go solely to the organization.

United Way is setting a precedent for charitable organizations to set up mobile payment systems that allow for streamlined donating, especially via virtual currency. The partnership of one of the world’s largest charities with a bitcoin platform as wide as Coinbase opens the door for more users to donate with the tap of a finger.

The partnership intertwines with United Way’s vision of merging innovation powered by technological advances and outreach programs to help individuals attain their human potential. United Way claims its Innovation Fund is transforming the social sector through efficiency, technology, and relationships, which is why it decided to join forces with Coinbase.

While the Coinbase donation option is currently only available for the Innovation Fund, United Way claims this is the first step, and it is anticipating extending the option to other parts of the organization as well.

Offering digital wallets for donors is a unique step for the organization, which believes that reducing transaction costs for donors will make a significant impact on the amount of donations.

“Bitcoin is a way that many people want to make charitable donations and buy things,” said Mr. Hochberg. “We want to be attractive to those folks.”

Bitcoin as future?
United Way’s adoption of bitcoin currency stakes it as the first non-profit to do so, but a slew of brands and retailers are joining the bitcoin bandwagon in efforts to expand consumer outreach.

The cryptocurrency’s top benefits include reduced transaction fees and saving on wire transfers. A San Diego real estate lender, Sequoian Investments, recently announced its acceptance of bitcoins for monthly real estate payments from clients (see story here).

The largest caveat for virtual currency lies in customer protection. Because virtual currencies are not currently supported by governments or central banks, customer payments can be hacked or fall prey to schemes more readily.

However, bitcoin claims to be one of the most secure virtual platforms, and leads to greater user outreach. Many brands and retailers are beginning to accept bitcoin, and listings on now display whether a merchant or business accepts it as payment (see story here).

More services, businesses, and now non-profits are gearing towards using digital wallets to offer more convenient payment solutions to consumers. Virtual currencies’ protection standards will likely dictate their cementation into society.

“Ultimately, Coinbase is passionate about exchanging cash value and currency,” said Mr. Hochberg. “Our hope would be that at the very least, that bitcoin users will learn about United Way and as they learn about us they will be compelled to use bitcoin to support our work to improve people’s lives.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York