July 16, 2021 Amy Sewell

In a recent meeting with a nonprofit we serve, a question came up: Should we be accepting cryptocurrencies on our website?  Well, cryptocurrency isn’t exactly a simple payment method to take, so the answer isn’t straightforward . . . it boils down to a few simple considerations.

First, some brief background. For someone standing on the outside, cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin) can be confusing. I’m not talking about digital methods of payment like PayPal or other online payment options.

Cryptocurrency is virtual money that can be exchanged for tangible goods and services. People who use cryptocurrency have their own vocabulary, which can make it hard to understand. But with a single Bitcoin moving from a value of $5,800 to $57,600 in one year’s time*—there’s no surprise it sparks curiosity.

In evaluating whether or not cryptocurrency (or any other new technology) is the right next step for you, look at these three things:

    1. Demand – Is this something your donors would use? The easiest way to tell is whether or not your donors are asking about it. For instance, I worked with an organization that was repeatedly asked to add PayPal to its website. If you are not actively getting requests, though, it can be hard to know if your donors would use a new technology. If you aren’t sure, you can simply poll your donors via social channels or email surveys.
    2. Difficulty – Although I am never opposed to tackling a challenge, the difficulty of implementation needs to be considered. Whether you have an in-house team or will be paying an external vendor, there’s a real cost involved in technology change. Most payment processors you already use on your site don’t accept donations of cryptocurrency, so it requires finding the right third-party payment processor. And while it’s certainly doable, this will require a decent amount of developer time to be done properly.
    3. Destination – What are your organization’s goals over the next few years? There are some organizations that highly prioritize being cutting edge or who are doing a significant concerted effort to target millennials for fundraising. Both will factor into your technology decisions and weigh into whether or not a riskier technology can be seen as an investment or worth testing.

So, sure, cryptocurrency may be all the rage right now, but is it truly the right time for your organization to expand donation options to include this? Only you know the answer to that. It is certainly something to keep on your radar and be mindful of, but in general, cryptocurrency simply does not need to be a high priority right now.

Instead, you’ll get far more return by placing a much higher priority on expanded electronic methods of payment such as ApplePay, Venmo, and Google Wallet, which have had a continued rise in donor usage with no signs of a decline anytime soon.

Years down the line, the balance may shift, demand may rise, and the difficulty in implementing cryptocurrency as a donation method may drop considerably. And when it does, you’ll be poised and ready to take the next step.

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