In the history of the world, the greatest innovations in science, technology and culture must have certainly been spurred forward by this unequivocal statement:
“There’s no way that will work.”
Weeks away from my 51st year, I can still recall someone at one time or another in my life emphatically uttering that sentence to me.
Today, as I watch the disruptive emergence of the crypto-currency economy, I can hear those voices again.
I refuse to be one of them.
In January, my nonprofit organization, Spare Key, announced that it would begin accepting Bitcoin as a legitimate form of currency donation.
In February, we announced that we would accept several forms of crypto-currency in exchange for goods purchased at our annual gala, “The Groove.”
Surprisingly, nothing bad happened when we began to accept these currencies.
While we haven’t suddenly struck crypto-currency gold, we have found ourselves involved in a conversation and a community that feel like we are part of creating something absolutely new and exciting.
It’s a brave new world when it comes to crypto-currency. Spare Key — which provides assistance to families with critically ill or injured children — is boldly entering this new world in its efforts to bring its mission to more and more families in the states it serves and in the hope of expanding to other states.
I will be the first to tell you that my knowledge and understanding of all the ins and outs of crypto-currency is at a surface level so thin that I find myself chuckling when people consider me to be overly knowledgeable about how it works.
The fact is, I find it more important that others comprehend the technical aspects and elements of crypto-currency. But here’s what I understand about its potential for nonprofits and charities:
• It is a new platform for giving: Spare Key tries every single day to be different and unique when it comes to fundraising. But at the end of the day, we, like nearly every other nonprofit, big or small, rely on the generosity of individual donors to sustain our operations and program. The creative development of various forms of crypto-currency, sponsored and created for equally various communities and individuals, offers untold opportunity to engage new donors in the process of charitable solicitation.
• It is a new platform for commerce: As of today, Spare Key accepts crypto-currency, then has it converted to U.S. dollars. As exciting as it is to see crypto-currency deposited into our checking account in the form of dollars, it is even more exciting to contemplate being able to support the families we serve by providing them with a rental grant or a mortgage grant directly payable to their lender or landlord in the form of crypto-currency.
• It is a new platform for awareness: I admit it — my No. 1 job as executive director is to raise money for Spare Key. Close behind, though, is my need to constantly and continuously raise awareness. Already our organization has exposed potentially thousands of new people, nationally and globally, to who we are and what we do and how these potential supporters can engage in our purpose and mission. This is an immeasurably important asset to any nonprofit or charity. Money is critical, but awareness is the sustainable lifeline of any organization.
I am not smart enough to know where the crypto-currency economy will end up in the weeks, months and years ahead. But I am old enough to know that I have been told too many times that things like cellphones, the Internet and reality shows would never catch on in my lifetime.
When it comes to disruptive new things in our lives, there are some that are forces for good and some that do more harm than good.
I’m on the side of crypto-currency being in a position to be a force for good for our future and for the families we serve.
Erich Mische has been active in local, state and national government, politics and public policy for more than three decades. He lives in St. Paul.