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Think Faster: How Crypto Giving Helps Fund The Water Project’s Future.

Thursday, March 7th, 2024

Ever wondered about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency? Maybe you’re seeing it in the news again, celebrated or maligned, depending on the week. 

Did you know that The Water Project has implemented hundreds of water projects, funded in whole or part, by cryptocurrency and Bitcoin specifically? Yes, hundreds of projects for tens of thousands of people! It’s true. 

Maybe you’re a crypto investor… or perhaps you know someone who is. Either way, there’s a fantastic opportunity to help us continue maximizing our momentum as we turn Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies into water for tens of thousands of people!

Donate Crypto

How it Started

The Water Project has been leading at the nexus of cryptocurrency innovation and the philanthropy space since 2014. As one of the first nonprofits to accept Bitcoin and ERC-20-based alt-coins, we recognized the crypto community’s incredible generosity early. As we welcomed this new support, we could never have anticipated the crypto-impact just over our horizon.

Today, powered by The Giving Block, crypto donors — individuals and organizations — join us regularly in our work to provide clean, safe, and reliable water to those who suffer without it in sub-Saharan Africa. We see near-daily giving from folks who are passionate about our work and choose to utilize cryptocurrency as their means of support. Some are anonymous, some not. But every satoshi matters. It’s all helping us bring new access to clean water and keep it flowing across thousands of water projects.

Here are a few extraordinary examples of how crypto donors helped shape and inform our future…

The “Pineapple Fund”

Our first crypto windfall (and our largest-ever gift at the time) came from “The Pineapple Fund,” a still-anonymous donor who gave a total of $86 million USD equivalent in Bitcoin to a portfolio of early charity crypto adopters. We were among the first. 

“Pine,” as they signed their email, asked us to help convince other non-profits that this endeavor wasn’t a hoax and that the crypto cash they offered (most often gifts of $1M+) was, in fact, “real” money. That week, we chatted with leaders of household-named national charities, and even a small local animal shelter’s Executive Director as their worlds (and budgets) changed along with ours. 

Teasing an Eternal Flame from a Flash in the Pan

Windfall (large, one-time) gifts are exciting. But they can also be disruptive, even dangerous, to a growing organization. Coupled with a passion and determination to move quickly and help more communities, it would have been easy to over-extend ourselves, burning quickly through these generous investments. Instead, we took a careful, measured approach to managing these scaling moments. We learned to build toward sustainability – of the water projects we install and the totality of systems needed to support them.

When water comes to a community in Kenya for the first time, everything changes. Time, health, energy, and hope emerge as the obstacle of dirty, disease-filled water is removed. Innovation, entrepreneurship, and progress take root, and entire villages experience newfound flourishing. A promise of reliable access to clean, safe water unlocks investment in agriculture, aquaculture, and other new business ventures. We, in turn, commit to ensuring that promise is kept. When water flows daily… the shackles of poverty’s insidious cycle are broken. 

For the community of Rotifunk in Sierra Leone, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin translate to education and relief from the water crisis.

Keeping water flowing isn’t free. Well-meaning charities’ initial promises to individuals, families, and communities are too-often left to chance or worse when dedicated revenue streams for long-term sustainability aren’t carefully considered. The need to demonstrate next quarter’s impact numbers in a tweet only counts the newly reached. At the same time, past and broken water promises remain yesterday’s problem for someone else to solve (with yet another water project). 

That’s not how our math works. And it’s taken effort and ingenuity to get our commitment equation balanced.

The Water Promise Endowment

To ensure communities don’t lose access to the promise of water ever again, we established The Water Promise Endowment to mitigate the risk of “failure by abdication.” When we engage in a community, we commit to the long-term. We do not give up our responsibility when a project is “completed.” In fact, we don’t even use that word. Our water promise begins on day one of installation. 

Endowments are a time-tested tool to leverage investment income to support core program activity while capital is reserved. That translates into ongoing monitoring, maintenance, and repair of thousands of water points serving ¾ of a million people daily. 

Thanks especially to a number of cryptocurrency donors, we maintain at least $2M (to date) in this fund. These assets include native cryptocurrencies and cash, held at the donor’s initial direction for future gains and in support of our maintenance work.

We’re committed to the long term for those we’ve already served, but we’re far from done bringing new water to entire regions of Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. And while Bitcoin donors ensure water keeps flowing where we’ve been, they have also helped us chart the path ahead to what’s next.

Scaling at the speed of possible

In 2021, mid-COVID lockdown, we leveraged a significant Bitcoin gift to map nearly 16,000 existing water points across Western Kenya — private, public, functional, and broken — to understand the full scope of the work necessary to provide complete water coverage for everyone living there. This mapping work, done one community at a time, now informs the next 10+ years of regional water investment. The data set is enviable, and local governments have taken keen note. And with this new tool, every gift that comes next will build on a solid foundation of truth and a plan that can accelerate as needed.

We are deeply thankful and humbled by the trust supporters place in us. The step-wise scaling these significant gifts enable is transformative and always the root of a remarkable return on impact investment. With millions raised, I can confirm that the crypto community is deeply charitable, committed to verifiable impact, and quite humbly, often anonymous. 

Today, with a clear plan ahead, experience managing unexpected and significant gifts well, and our dedicated teams standing at the ready… we wait expectantly for the next beacons of generosity to emerge and join us to do a great deal more good in the world! 

We call them…

The Accelerators

With a map in one hand and a proven strategy in the other, we’re all ready for the next  “surprise” in crypto (or any type of) giving. We’ve proven that we are able to leverage exceptional gifts to inform our future strategy, provide water, and prepare for the next investment-level gift simultaneously.

Just last year, donors stepped up with over $1M in giving during The Giving Block’s “Caring With Crypto” Match Campaign, funded by Shift4. The large gifts and match allowed us to move quite aggressively into our plan to provide clean water, border to border, in entire regions of Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Uganda over the next decade (at the current pace). 

We call these supporters the “Accelerators.” Because they don’t change where we’re going — only how fast we get there. 

See the impact of “Caring With Crypto” Here

For students like Edison, water means education. 

“As a student, I will have enough time to study when I return home,” Edison remarked. “I will no longer go out of the community to fetch water. …the water well is close to my house. Therefore, I will have enough time to fetch water as much as I can. After fetching [what] I need, there will still be enough time to study before going to bed.” 

Edison’s story isn’t rare… and you can read many more like it in every project report we post. Every project, every time.

A world where everyone has clean water is possible.

Thanks to crypto philanthropy and all our supporters, we have an incredible and clear path ahead. In fact, we now know how to spend the next $100M USD of donor support even as we manage toward a current yearly budget of just $7M. 

And whether it’s $20 of good old-fashioned credit card cash or $20,000 of new-fangled crypto, we’ve always shown every donor the specific impact of their giving. 

If you’re not sure where you fit… we are. Join us, and we’ll add you to our map of where we’re heading. It’s our open ledger. And we’d love to add your name.

Thanks in large part to the generosity of the crypto community, there’s never a question of  “what” might be next. Today, we’re focused on “when.” And so are the women, girls, and entire communities who await the gift of clean, safe water that lasts for decades to come.

Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin may seem like the future (or yesterday’s news if you ask a skeptic)… but regardless of opinions, virtual money provides very real water every single day.

Donate Crypto

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