Rhodri Davies, Programme Leader, Giving Thought

Rhodri Davies

Head of Policy

Charities Aid Foundation

The role of giving

Ebola, Bitcoin and challenge fundraising

21 October 2014

I arrived in work this morning to find an intriguing email in my inbox. The MD of a new online fundraising campaign in the US called "A Day Without Touch" (ADWT) had got in touch after reading one of my previous posts about Bitcoins. Not only was it gratifying to find out that someone reads this stuff, but I thought that what she was doing was really interesting for a couple of reasons and worth sharing more widely.

Unusual fundraising

The idea behind "A Day Without Touch" (which was founded by a doctor who isn't able herself to go to West Africa) is to get people to raise money for Medecin Sans Frontiers (or Doctors Without Borders as it is known in the US) by trying to go for as long as possible without skin-to-skin contact with other people. What struck me about this is that it has a definite "ice-bucket challenge" feel to it, but unlike the IBC (which I have written more about here), the fundraising act here also  plays a much clearer awareness-raising role. By challenging people to avoid contact,  it highlights the difficulty of containing the spread of Ebola and the human impact on those who have it and are cut off from others.

The downside of this is potentially that it requires a higher level of commitment than pouring a bucket of ice over your head, and may not lend itself quite so readily to celeb-friendly YouTube clips, so it may not get quite as much traction. That would be a bit depressing, if it implied that fundraising was only possible where it played on people's narcissism and had low barriers to entry. However, the "Day Without Touch" challenge has already managed to raise more than $13,000, and it has only been going for less than a fortnight, so there may be cause to be optimistic about human nature!

Taking cryptocurrency donations

The other thing that is interesting about ADWT (and their main reason for getting in touch with me)  is that although it is relatively small and new, it is able to take donations of cryptocurrency (BitCoin and DogeCoin). As things currently stand, it appears to be the only way that ayone could make such a donation to MSF to help with the fight against Ebola.

As I have previously written, cryptocurrency presents some challenges for charities, but also some huge opportunities. The fact that over $1000 of the total raised by ADWT so far has come in the form of cryptocurrency suggests that there is a significant pool of donors who want to give in this way, and finding ways to enable them to do so will help to get more money to good causes. More and more charities are dipping a toe in these waters, but if third-party campaigns can also help them then so much the better.

I certainly wish ADWT the best of luck with their fundraising, and will be fascinated to see how they get on and also what other new ideas people come up with to harness social media and cryptocurrency for charity.