Bitcoin conferences have been the birthing grounds for many a successful startup. They have attracted some of the best business minds and biggest VC investors. But when Connie Gallippi went to San Jose for her first conference in back in 2013, she saw a different sort of opportunity altogether; the opportunity to create a philanthropic organization that would use the power of bitcoin to help the disadvantaged citizens of the world.
It’s been a whirlwind journey for Gallippi since the idea of the BitGive Foundation first took root back in San Jose. Over the past year and a half, the Foundation has attained status as the first bitcoin 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and has funded projects on behalf of half a dozen charitable campaigns. Most recently, Gallippi visited Kenya to witness the completion of a bitcoin-funded well in conjunction with The Water Project.
This Sunday marks World Water Day. Bitcoin Magazine caught up with Connie Gallippi to talk about BitGive and to find out more about BitGive’s involvement with The Water Project.
Back in February of 2014, Gallippi was looking to fund a water-related project based in Africa when she saw an announcement from Peter Chasse, founder of The Water Project, announcing that his organization was accepting cryptocurrency donations.
“…emerging cryptocurrencies are extremely low cost and in some cases nearly free to exchange and transfer. The cryptocurrency movement is based on transparency, openness and de-centralization in its design and implementation. At the same time, users enjoy an anonymity more akin to cash-based transactions. The critical difference being that underlying valuations are not decided by a central authority and the movement of that value is unencumbered.” — Peter Chasse
“It was serendipity,” says Gallippi. With a fifteen-year career background in the environmental not-for-profit industry, Gallippi was already keenly interested in water-based issues. Finding a company that understood and was enthusiastic about the potential of bitcoin seemed to be the perfect fit for BitGive. After a thorough investigation of the charity, BitGive was ready to move forward.
Gallippi set a fundraising goal of $10,000 — the full amount required to complete one well. It was a huge task, but Gallippi wanted the project to be entirely funded by the Bitcoin community. “There was lots of money floating around at the time,” says Gallippi, so she was optimistic. And while it took longer than Gallippi initially expected, by the fall of 2014, BitGive had surpassed its goal, raising in excess of $11,000.
From that point on, the project proved to be worth all the effort. “It was an amazing experience to walk hand-in-hand with them through the whole thing” says Gallippi of her relationship with The Water Project. She explains that it was a completely in-depth endeavor; the charity works not only to build the well, but to involve and educate the community regarding the well and its maintenance, as well as sanitation and health.
“They really do quality work,” says Gallippi. “And they are also really excited about Bitcoin!”
As the date of the well’s completion approached, Gallippi began to consider the possibility of visiting the Kenyan village where it was being dug. Wouldn’t it be amazing if she could tell the Bitcoin community the story of how their donations made this project possible?
When she reached out to the Water Project to see if they could help her locate the project and approach the community, serendipity struck again. Peter Chasse told her about a film crew that was going to be visiting a few of their completed projects and he agreed to include the BitGive well. He also invited her to join the team in the field in Kenya. Gallippi put together a funding proposal that would cover the cost of her trip and a bitcoin-oriented film for the BitGive project; and within a few days, BitPesa stepped in to cover the costs.
“It was amazing,” said Gallippi. “We got the whole film project settled in about four days.”
The Water Project wasn’t the first of BitGive’s campaigns. It kicked off its efforts back in 2013 by spearheading the first Bitcoin Black Friday charity drive, raising funds for Save the Children following the Philippines’ typhoon disaster. It has since supported campaigns to provide tornado relief to the US midwestern states, to stop the spread of the ebola virus, and support TECHO building homes in the favelas of Brazil. Most recently, BitGive has become involved with Medic Mobile, a platform that supports health-care workers in remote communities of the developing world using mobile technology.
“Magical things have happened”
Although the BitGive Foundation is largely a one-woman operation — Gallippi is the only person working full-time at the moment — it is not without a support system. Since its inception in 2013, Gallippi has had the support of BitPay co-founders Stephen Pair and Tony Gallippi, Connie Gallippi’s brother.
“Tony and Stephen really helped to pull in key players from Day One,” said Gallippi. For example, they helped her to connect with Patrick Murck, who now sits on the Board of the BitGive Foundation. Through Murck, Gallippi was able to secure pro bono legal work from Perkins Coie, who took care of securing the charity’s status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
To date, BitPay is a Platinum founding donor to BitGive. “We would never be here without them,” says Gallippi.
The BitGive Foundation has also received support from other companies and individuals in the community. Most recently, they teamed with both ChangeTip and Purse.io in its efforts to make donation collection from the bitcoin community easier. Anyone collecting tips through ChangeTip has the option to redirect their tips directly to BitGive. All people have to do is log into their ChangeTip accounts and click on “Redirect your tips to a Cause.”.
Similarly, shoppers at Purse.io have the option to participate in the Amazon Smile program. Purse.io enables bitcoin users to shop on Amazon.com for a discount. When shoppers choose to participate in the Amazon Smile program, 0.5 of their purchase amount is donated to the charity of their choice. BitGive has enlisted bitcoin companies to match all Purse.io Smile donations over the next few months.
“Right now,” says Gallippi, “Chain.com will match all donations,” with the matching amounts going directly to the BitGive Foundation, regardless of where the original charitable donation is directed. For example, even if a user chooses to direct the 0.5 donation to the Red Cross, Chain.com will send an equivalent amount to BitGive.
To find out more about the BitGive Foundation, or to become member or make a donation, visit their website at bitgivefoundation.org. An in-depth interview with Connie Gallippi is also available on decentral.tv.
This is part 1 of a 4-piece series highlighting charitable work by the Bitcoin community for World Water Day.
Photo courtesy of Stan Patyrak / The Water Project.
Christie Harkin is the contributions editor at Bitcoin Magazine.