Bitcoin, by its very nature, carries an association with wealth for private gain. Vladislav Dramaliev, founder and director of BitHope.org, wants to remind people that bitcoin has an equally important role raising money for non-profit organizations. And judging from the response to the website in a few months, a lot of people agree with him. The website lists several campaigns for causes such as mental health, children’s character building, diabetes, digital books and more.
The first bitcoin crowdfunding website for non-governmental organizations in Europe, BitHope.org only uses cryptocurrency to generate funds for the campaigns it hosts.
BitHope.org accepts every donation, regardless of its size, as an expression of empathy towards a human condition or eagerness to improve the world. Dramaliev also co-founded Coinfixer.com, the first website for bitcoin exchange in Bulgaria, and is a founding member of the Bulgarian Bitcoin Association.
Asked why he started BitHope.org, Dramaliev told CCN BitHope.org is an expression of the experience he gained working with bitcoin, understanding it and following the growth of the bitcoin ecosystem.
After a friend introduced him to bitcoin in 2013, they decided to create the first website in Bulgaria that offered bitcoin exchange services, Coinfixer.com.
The BitHope Foundation website went from an idea in a little less than a year. The official launch of the project was on Nov. 22, 2015.
“I slowly grasped the full range of possibilities presented by the technology and became a fervent supporter,” he said. “At the same time, I noticed that it is being abused by bad actors and the real-world examples of its usage were primarily negative. It was receiving bad press due to the actions of individuals.”
Dramaliev recognized that bitcoin shared an important characteristic with other revolutionary technologies – it was neutral. “Its usage depended (and always will) entirely on the will of the users and there were many ‘bad’ ones. Moreover, very generally speaking, bitcoin was primarily accepted as a way of generating a profit – legally or illegally – and its ‘virtual’ nature confounded people.
“I came to the conclusion that many were missing the point, being unable to grasp the potential that bitcoin and bitcoins had, due to preconceived notions about the technology, largely formed by mainstream journalists.”
He thought that the ability to initiate micropayments irrespective of location which go to a public address, with a zero or very low fee, and without providing sensitive personal information to third parties was a remarkable breakthrough.
“A bitcoin address to me was like a virtual donation box, identical in purpose to the ones placed at airports or cafes, but globally reachable. At the same time, I knew that there were many non-profit organizations (NPOs) that are working towards the realization of socially-important goals.
“I am not referring to leviathans such as Greenpeace or WWF, which have globally recognizable brands and are final destinations of wide streams of financial support, but about the small NPOs that exist in any country, fighting to make a small but important difference.
“I thought bitcoin and NPOs were a perfect match. I decided to introduce them to one another.”
The aim of the BitHope Foundation is to show NPOs globally that bitcoin can be a source of additional funding for their charitable causes. “On the other hand, we want to prove a point – bitcoin is an amazing technology that could be used to create tangible good in the world by allowing people everywhere to donate even small amounts to causes they associate with, no strings attached. Bitcoin must not be associated primarily with Ponzi schemes, failed exchanges, deep web markets and speculation.”
He noted that famed bitcoin advocate Andreas Antonopoulos encouraged bitcoin holders to invest in charities.
Currently, there are 14 campaigns announced on the site, divided into four categories – “health”, “nature,” “development” and “external.” BitHope.org manages the bitcoin wallets and ensures proper spending of generated funds for all campaigns except the ones in the “external” section. The organization does not have access to the generated funds and, thus, no control over their spending, he said.
The most successful campaign has been the “Half Euro for Shoes” campaign. Damaliev expects it to complete in the next two months. Four other campaigns are currently also being funded. The goal is to complete at least five by the end of 2016.
“We have noticed that some people prefer to donate to the general bitcoin address of the Foundation,” he said. “All funds that arrive there are subsequently distributed to our campaigns. We use a public note to announce towards which charitable initiative they are directed.”
Damaliev said the organization is adamant about transparency and proper spending of the generated funds. “An important step towards completing his goal was to register the BitHope Foundation as an administrator of personal information.
“This allows us to go through an extensive KYC process with all organizations that are interested in adding their campaigns on our website. We require them to provide us with documentation explaining their activities, organizational structure, officers, extensive contact information, what they intend to use the funds for and how.
“If we determine that the applicant organization is suitable for BitHope.org, we establish official relations in the form of a contract. Our primary requirement is the provision of extensive information, verifiable by third parties, that clearly demonstrations how the funds are spent. This is uploaded to BitHope.org in the ‘Completed Campaigns’ section and is freely downloadable by anyone visiting the website.
“It is important to note that the NPOs do not receive the funds in the form of bitcoins, unless they specifically request it. We take care of the ‘bitcoin-to-fiat’ exchange and provide them with national currency. Moving away from fiat will be possible only when bitcoin becomes more widely used. This is slowly happening.”
Currently, BitHope.org has promoted itself primarily throughout the Bulgarian NPO community. “Bulgaria is a testing ground for us,” he said. “We want to gain experience in the process of managing our campaigns and start attracting the attention of foreign NPOs only after that. It is a balance between a number of campaigns and number of completed campaigns. At this point, we are primarily concerned with the successfully completion of the initiatives that are already announced on the website.”
The expenses for the development of the website are covered entirely with funds from the Foundation’s members. Additional financial support is provided by the transactions completed through CoinFixer.com.
“We have tried to be as lean as possible and managed to produce an MVP thanks to the free or reduced-price services of a large number of partners (to whom we are very grateful),” he said. “We have succeeded to keep our expenses low, and our monthly expenditures are negligible.”
The campaigns will always receive the lion’s share of the funds, he said. “We like to believe that we are ‘paid’ in the form of improving bitcoin’s image and helping the NPOs who have turned to us for assistance.”
CoinFixer.com, a brokerage service, offers a less complicated way of acquiring cryptocurrencies (especially small amounts), in a way similar to making a purchase of goods on the Internet. People do not have to deal with an exchange platform or initiate international bank transfers. “Since we take on the risk of bitcoin/dash/litecoin price volatility, we offer a slightly different price than the one on the exchange.”
Dramaliev said CoinFixer.com is the only cryptocurrency exchange service in Bulgaria that follows KYC/AML rules, approved by the State Agency for National Security and has implemented a client phone-verification system.
So far anonymous donations, up to the state-specified maximum amount, have been the preferred way of providing support.
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