Silicon Valley's Bitcoin charity: Interview with Bitgive's Connie Gillippi

Silicon Valley’s Bitcoin charity: FinanceFeeds interviews BitGive founder Connie Gallippi

“The potential for direct access to millions of people in the most remote areas of the world to provide financial resources from anywhere in the world is mind boggling.” – Connie Gallippi, Founder & Executive Director, Bitgive

Initially the preserve of mavericks and anarchists whose mantra was to circumvent the institutions, the accepted and centralized banking system and traditional technological methods of delivering financial services, Bitcoin has gone full circle.

Ironically courting the exact institutions, management consultancies, professional services companies, technological developers and global financial giants that it was initially designed to go up against, Bitcoin has risen to become as corporate as it set out not to be, the main point of interest being its intrinsic Blockchain technology which cannot be separated from Bitcoin, which has attracted enormous venture capital and institutional investment in order to develop it to automate and progress certain aspects of mainstream banking.

JPMorgan, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch have all invested in multi-million dollar in-house developments in order to refine the automated distributed ledger technology that Blockchain is suited to, and start up Bitcoin firms have been subject to in some cases record breaking rounds of funding from seasoned and astute venture capital firms, for example 21 Inc raised $116 million two years ago, a sum previously unheard of.

Thus, the cycle so far has been from maverick and anarchist to corporate capitalist grey suit.

Now comes another phase for Bitcoin, this time charity.

To explore this further, FinanceFeeds spoke to Connie Gallippi, Founder and Executive Director of BitGive, which was established in 2013 and is the first government recognized Bitcoin nonprofit organization in the world.

Through her work with BitGive, Connie has built a positive philanthropic representative organization for the Bitcoin industry, bridging the gap between an innovative technology and its practical applications for nonprofits and humanitarian work in the developing world. Connie is a well-known industry spokesperson for the social impact of Bitcoin and advocating for more diversity and equal opportunity in the digital currency community.

Connie’s work with BitGive has built partnerships and raised funds with well-known nonprofits including Save the Children, The Water Project, TECHO, and Medic Mobile. BitGive recently announced its Bitcoin Charity 2.0 Initiative, which includes a variety of projects aimed at leveraging Bitcoin and blockchain technology to benefit charitable organizations worldwide.

From your perspective, what does the “mainstream” currently think of Bitcoin, and how is Bitcoin more innovative than commonly considered? 

Bitcoin is now more commonly recognized by the average person than a few years ago; however, most people still are not very familiar with it beyond the name. In my experience with people outside of the industry, understanding of the technology ranges across the spectrum from association with the dark web and Silk Road to those in tech and finance who are clueing in to the more sophisticated aspects.

Even still, many are becoming more familiar with “blockchain technology,” as they are seeing the banks gain interest and mainstream finance publications cover various topics in the growing sector. Even still, there is still a lack of understanding of how the technology really works, what the potential its applications are now and in the future.

Most common is a lack of understanding that recreating certain aspects in a private blockchain takes away most of the technology’s beneficial features. Bitcoin is far more than a digital currency or a fancy database. The current and potential future applications are revolutionary and far superior as a global, distributed, public system in trust, accountability, transparency, and security.

What opportunities does bitcoin technology offer to philanthropy; as a follow-up, how is a nonprofit from California using blockchain technology to supercharge charities by making donations trackable?

Bitcoin technology offers many ways to improve philanthropy. First, it offers faster and more secure transactions with significantly less fees. This is especially valuable in global philanthropy where there are many cross-border transactions and a lack of financial services in developing countries.

Additionally, the Bitcoin blockchain offers global public transparency of financial transactions and trust without a third party such as a bank or government. With bitcoin, funds can also be transferred directly peer to peer to anywhere in the world in minutes, similar to an email, even via SMS on a feature phone. The potential for direct access to millions of people in the most remote areas of the world to provide financial resources from anywhere in the world is mind boggling.

BitGive, the first government recognized Bitcoin nonprofit founded in 2013, has been working with well-known nonprofits in Bitcoin for over three years. This month, BitGive launched a MVP (minimum viable product) called GiveTrack that leverages the transparency aspects of Bitcoin and provides a user-friendly interface for nonprofits and donors to share information in real time.

The platform tracks donor funds as they are used for nonprofit project expenses and ties donations to project results for accountability. BitGive plans to build out a full product with broad applicability, functionality, real-time feedback loops, reporting mechanisms, and collective data visualization features.

Briefly describe BitGive’s long-term goals and growth plans.

BitGive is still a young and growing organization; however, much has been accomplished over the past 3.5 years with limited resources. The organization’s long-term vision is to serve as a philanthropic foundation for the Bitcoin and Blockchain industry. With time and growth, the organization will have a stronger global presence with projects happening simultaneously in different parts of the world and skilled teams on the ground.

In the short- to mid- term, BitGive plans to grow the team adding in-house technical development and fund development, as well as expanding program management and marketing. BitGive’s 3-year plan focuses on building a multi-dimensional platform with GiveTrack and on boarding as many nonprofits and charities possible. The platform will include sophisticated data analysis and visualization features for tracking and showing the collective movement of funds and project impacts all over the world in real time.

In a recent conversation, you and I briefly discussed that Blockchain and Bitcoin represent a similar leap forward in financial technology that the Tesla does to the automotive world and that it took some Silicon Valley technologists from outside the industry (in the financial world the fintech giants of New York and Chicago and in the auto world Detroit) to revolutionize it from the outside. Can blockchain technology do the same thing for traditional industries like finance and even the non-profit world?

Absolutely. I think sometimes, or in fact often times, it takes a completely different perspective, interest, and even skill set to drive true disruption. There are many reasons why most traditional industries are reluctant to evolve or make dramatic change. Mostly because it doesn’t benefit them to do so. If they can continue to make big profits with increasing profit margins over time, the incentive is low to invest in changing their system.

I would say that the nonprofit sector is very different in that sense. Nonprofits by nature and structure are not about making money or big profit margins. Nonprofits are about having an impact, helping others, and affecting change. If there are better, faster, and cheaper ways to accomplish their goals, they are very interested as this means they can accomplish more with less. Unfortunately, because of the donation-based financial structure, nonprofits are often under resourced and the last to be able to afford the latest tools, software, or technology.

What is new and will stand the company out in the immediate future?

We have a powerful video that talks about the potential for this technology in philanthropy and shares an empowering story of our work in Kenya with The Water Project

#bitcoin, #Bitgive, #charity, #Connie Gillippi
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