The charity sector has been experiencing a steady decline of public trust in the United Kingdom. Figures from the UK’s Charity Commission show a downward trend since 2014, with a fall in confidence corresponding with increased media scrutiny on charities, a lack of trust with how donations are spent and the lack of knowledge about where those donations go.
One charity in the UK decided to partner with a blockchain solution to remedy the situation and there are more similar collaborations seeking to leverage blockchain innovations such as transparency and efficiency to revive flagging trust in the charity sector.
At a UK blockchain event, Bitcoin News got to chat with Robert Robinson, the UK managing director of CharityStars and AidCoin, who is of the firm belief that blockchain will fuel a charity sector confidence boost.
Bitcoin News (BN): While there are significant challenges regarding trust in charitable enterprises, there appears to be far more regarding blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Is it remotely possible for the mainstream to begin using the technology in a way that will outpace traditional donation methods?
Robert Robinson (RR): I think it’s a matter of time really and a matter of educating individuals for people to better understand what blockchain is, understand what the technology is, and what other technology surrounding blockchain can be used with blockchain as well. I think people now are confusing blockchain and the technology using blockchain tech, and because of that they don’t fully understand its capabilities, how it can be used and implemented.
BN: Cryptocurrencies are prevalent with millennials and so is donating to charity, despite trust levels declining. Are these factors conducive to the success of blockchain-related charities in the future and will this be a generationally exclusive phenomenon?
RR: I don’t think it’s necessarily a generation exclusive phenomena, I think that there’s been a huge adoption and interest in cryptocurrencies with millennials due to press being used; social media not being as prevalent as it was before because of the limitation on that. But I do tend to believe there will be more millennials utilizing it and it should be explored for the right reasons. As I mentioned before, not necessarily down to making a quick buck, but believing in what the technologies capabilities can do and how they can be delivered as well what the outcomes can be.
BN: Do you think market volatility will affect how and when donations will be made? For instance, in a cryptocurrency market downturn like we are experiencing now, presumably donors would be less likely to make a donation. What are your thoughts?
RR: No, I think market volatility is something that is not as apparent as it was previously. We don’t see these spikes in the prices of some of these tokens and cryptocurrencies and tokens going up as much. I think that is because people understand that this is not necessarily the funds to be made for themselves [and] is not as much as they had initially anticipated.
I don’t think that volatility is going to affect when people donate to charity. However, I do think that it’s a factor that unfortunately will affect what charities can do with those funds and how much they can do with those funds, but it’s something that won’t last for a long time. It will slowly but surely become less volatile and more easily usable.
BN: Blockchain technologies are easily exploitable and are still being exploited. What prevents a blockchain-based charity or philanthropic endeavor from being exploited in the same way?
RR: The reasoning behind the using of the technology is the traceability and the transparency within it. It would be foolish to use technology that has transparency within it to conceal certain ways that you operate or conduct oneself or one’s company.
I think within any industry, whether that be now or before blockchain technology, has emerged into the general public’s mind like it is now, there has always been individuals in companies conducting themselves in certain ways and you will find that in any industry. But it’s a matter of time before, hopefully, those individuals and organizations leave this industry.
BN: Will the successes of charitable blockchain efforts improve trust in blockchain or cryptocurrencies and vice versa?
RR: Yeah, I think once again it’s about trust and I think trust within all sectors, trust relationships, businesses, and trust within the non-profit sector is fundamental because people are donating money, hard-earned funds and they want to know where those funds are being used. If they can see that, if they can literally tangibly see where those funds are going, what the hard outcome is, who they’re affecting and what the benefit is, that makes people believe more in what they (charities) are doing.
BN: When did CharityStars (as the parent company) recognize the potential in blockchain and for how long has AidCoin been in the pipeline?
RR: CharityStars has been in the business for about four years now and we speak to a huge amount of our donors. We speak to a lot of charities every single day, so we hear both ends of the spectrum and even for ourselves as a company, we raise a lot of money for charity and we love what we do but at the same time, we don’t necessarily see what happens with those funds.
There’s a lot of people who work within charity who are volunteers, on the ground, making those projects happen and are really the frontline. Those people are commendable, but we don’t get that feel-good feeling because we don’t know where those funds are going and don’t have that opportunity to involve yourself. Over a year ago, seeing the insurgence of blockchain technology and realizing actually, there’s an issue here with trust and transparency, and blockchain technology can be the fix.
BN: Were there any particularly significant disagreements when AidCoin was proposed to CharityStars?
RR: I don’t necessarily know about much within the company. We’re very much together on what we do but I would say generally from an overall standpoint people don’t believe in something if they don’t fully understand it and it’s only when they fully understand it that they open up.
BN: Do you yourself or CharityStars delve into educating the masses, other charities or sectors?
RR: It’s all very early days so we have started and initially we have started to go out and hold forums and functions with our charities to educate further but it’s events such as this (Bristol and Bath Blockchain Conference), that need to be done more so in order to educate the public, charities on how technology and blockchain technology can be used for the benefit of themselves.
If you enjoyed this conversation and find blockchain-related philanthropy as fascinating as we do, check out this interview here with the anonymous Bitcoin millionaire who donated USD 80 million worth of Bitcoin to multiple charities in a project called the Pineapple Fund.
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Image Courtesy: Robert Robinson