The United Way Worldwide has long offered several ways for supporters to donate, such as workplace campaigns, planned giving and donating stock. A new option was added this week — bitcoin.

The move makes United Way Worldwide the largest charity to accept a virtual currency. Such currencies don’t exist in paper or coin form but are downloaded from a virtual wallet, often on the owner’s cellphone, to the charity’s website, which converts it to cash.

The currencies, which are not backed by a bank, are slowly gaining acceptance by charities.

“United Way Worldwide embraces the opportunity to make it easier for donors to support the causes that matter most to them, and this means innovating to evolve with the donor landscape,” said Brian A. Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide. “Achieving United Way’s vision for the world — where all individuals and families achieve their human potential — requires innovation powered by new technology and outreach methods,” he said.

In announcing the move Monday, United Way Worldwide said it recognizes bitcoin as an emerging technology that reduces costs for making online donations. There are no transaction fees.

It’s also an opportunity to reach a new pool of donors, the organization said.

For now, bitcoin will be accepted only for United Way’s Innovation Fund, the charity said. That fund is designed to “transform United Way and the social sector through technology, relationships and efficiency,” according to the agency.

United Way has partnered with Coinbase, a leading bitcoin platform used by 1.6 million users and 36,000 merchants worldwide, United Way reports.

The move is a significant boon to cryptocurrency supporters, who are trying to expand the pool of businesses, charities and other groups that accept the currency.

United Way Worldwide is the world’s largest privately funded nonprofit. It has 9.7 million donors and raises more than $5 billion a year.


Jean Hopfensperger 612 673-4511