Still, she said, there are plenty of resources, like the Giving Block, that allow people to donate cryptocurrency and nonprofits to receive it safely and relatively easily.
Donor-advised funds, which allow people to make donations today for tax purposes and recommend charitable grants at a later date, have seen an increase in cryptocurrency donations. Among them are Fidelity Charitable, the largest donor-advised fund in the United States, with over $35 billion in assets, and its main competitor, Schwab Charitable, with over $17 billion.
So far this year, Fidelity Charitable has received $150 million in cryptocurrency, up from $28 million for all of 2020 and $13 million in 2019, said a spokesman, Stephen Austin. “The appreciated value of cryptocurrency is prompting more donors to use this asset to fund their charitable giving as well as increasing the average size of each contribution,” he said.
What neither Fidelity Charitable nor Schwab Charitable does is manage the cryptocurrency, meaning that they sell it and put marketable securities or cash into the client’s donor-advised fund.
“Generally, charities are conservative with how they want to manage assets,” said Todd Eckler, executive director of Fiduciary Trust Charitable, a donor-advised fund that has about $250 million in assets and does not have cryptocurrency abilities. “You could see the value evaporate pretty quickly. It’s highly volatile, and it’s not a good fit for many charitable institutions.”
For Mr. Zeller, who helped broker the Bitcoin donation at Penn, the ability to accept cryptocurrency is what matters most.
“It’s very nice to have the capacity to do it when a donor says, ‘I have some Bitcoin,’” he said. “We can accept it now without it grinding the university to a halt.”