Credit Cards, and Now Crypto: One School’s Path to Accepting Gifts of Cryptocurrency

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By Sarah Walton

Calvert School’s philanthropy office is comprised of six team members, specializing in major gifts, annual giving, alumni and parent engagement, and advancement and event services. Each ready and willing to pick up the phone and ask for that next gift. No matter the role, we are all fundraisers.

Together, we annually raise more than $1.2 million for the Calvert Fund, the school’s annual giving program. We recently closed a two-year capital campaign titled Calvert 125 in honor of the school’s 125th anniversary. More than 400 donors and nearly 50 volunteers from Calvert’s community across the country came together to raise $16 million through the campaign, exceeding the original goal by 30% and giving the school the opportunity to have an even greater impact in the world now and for the next 125 years.

Since closing the campaign in the fall of 2021, and in addition to our annual fund, we have raised an additional $1.6 million in major gifts from three alumni donors. I say all of this to emphasize that we are a productive bunch of fundraisers within a very committed and generous community.

Each summer, our fundraising team spends time analyzing the past school year and mapping out the year ahead. At these retreats, we discuss big, outside-the-box concepts as if the budget or approval process is not part of the equation. Our most recent retreat and “big idea” discussion centered around the acceptance of cryptocurrency donations

Why? There were three factors

  1. One of the benefits of our small parent and alumni communities (about 400 families and 3,500 solicitable alumni, respectively) is that we know our donors — and we know there is significant crypto wealth within our network from casual conversations with our donors.
  2. More than 50% of U.S. crypto owners in 2020 were between the ages of 18 and 39. This is relevant considering 65% of our alumni are 25 years out from their eighth-grade graduation. 
  3. Concurrently, our trusted partner, GiveCampus, announced the ability to accept more than 45 different forms of cryptocurrency on its online giving page. It seemed like the timing was right to explore this idea. In partnership with the Giving Block (blockchain) and Gemini (currency platform), GiveCampus allows our donors to select cryptocurrency as an option on their online giving forms and social fundraising campaigns.

To get started, we had internal conversations with our head of school. We also established a partnership with our business office, a critical part of the process. These colleagues spent a significant amount of time getting us set up on Gemini, a regulated cryptocurrency exchange that allows us to convert the gift into cash.

With internal conversations out of the way, we shifted our focus to the Development Committee, comprising trustees and non-trustees who oversee our fundraising process. To prepare for this presentation, a special guest was invited to the Development Committee: a current parent who is a crypto expert and an early adopter. His friend wrote and produced the award-winning documentary, The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin. 

We asked committee members to watch the documentary ahead of the meeting, to confirm we were all approaching the conversation with a degree of shared understanding. At the meeting, our special guest was able to answer questions related to this complicated topic. After hearing our compelling research, the committee agreed to accept cryptocurrency as a way of giving to Calvert.

We are only beginning our journey. While we received approval in the fall, it took us until early 2022 to fully be up and running on Gemini. We have received a cryptocurrency donation from a new family, and we are looking forward to promoting this further within our community and using it in our conversations with our donors.

 

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Sarah Walton is the development director at Calvert School, a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade private school for more than 600 girls and boys in the Baltimore area.

 

 

 

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