As the most trusted and impactful philanthropic leader in our community, the
San Antonio Area Foundation is constantly striving to innovate in terms of making it as simple and efficient as possible for existing and potential donors to connect with us.
Our latest offering is on a new option in giving – cryptocurrency. Laura Giacomoni, Philanthropic Advisor for Donor Services in the Area Foundation’s Development and Donor Services Department (DDS), has conducted extensive research on this new phenomenon and is leading our effort on this front.
As Laura explains, it’s all part of our vision in terms of meeting donors where they are. Laura, 38, has served in her current role since 2019, coming from the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she served as Assistant Director of Donor Relations. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Texas A&M University and is married with two children, ages four and seven.
We sat down with Laura for a conversation regarding the Area Foundation’s expansion into the world of crypto-philanthropy.
Q: How did the issue of cryptocurrency first appear on the Area Foundation’s radar?
A: I have been following cryptocurrency market research regarding philanthropy since last summer. It is certainly a relatively new phenomenon that as the number of crypto owners soars, the number of crypto philanthropists increases as well.
Q: There seems to be plenty of confusion and perhaps misunderstanding about crypto. Why is the Area Foundation jumping into this space?
A: Yes, there is a lot of curiosity and uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency among people who do not own any yet. Because the San Antonio Area Foundation serves as our community’s most trusted and impactful philanthropic partner, we have an opportunity to educate individuals who would like to learn more about this brand-new option to give back.
Q: Crypto has actually been around for several years – but it’s still fairly new in nonprofit circles, right? What about for community foundations such as ours?
A: Research indicates that total volume of cryptocurrency donations to nonprofits like the San Antonio Area Foundation skyrocketed in 2021. Although that market fluctuates up and down, mirroring the stock market, we still believe that it is an economic force that is here to stay. A benchmarking process with other community foundations revealed that a few of our peer community foundations do have the means in place to accept cryptocurrency gifts. We are proud to be among the first nonprofits in San Antonio to accept this type of donation.
Q: So how does it actually work? Is it hard for people to crypto-donate? What about in terms of how the Area Foundation handles these donations?
A: Because cryptocurrency is a new source of wealth for many, 55 percent of crypto owners say they aren’t sure the assets could be donated. A comprehensive survey also indicated that 46 percent of individuals who did want to donate cryptocurrency found it difficult to find charities that accepted it. The Area Foundation’s donation page makes it simple and safe to give gifts of virtual currency of any amount. Individuals may donate either an amount of dollars or a quantity of coins, and the online donation form will automatically convert between the currencies for the donor. The Area Foundation received its first donation of cryptocurrency for our Uvalde Strong Fund in the aftermath of the horrible Robb Elementary School shooting.
Q: Are there more risks involved for both donors and recipients in terms of donations via crypto as opposed to more traditional means of giving?
A: The Area Foundation is following an industry best practice with cryptocurrency donations, which is to liquidate the asset immediately to avoid any risks involved with market volatility.
Q: What message do we want to send to the donor community? Are we encouraging them to shift to crypto? Or simply providing them another option on how to give?
A: Through this new means of giving, we want to invite more people to empower the Area Foundation’s new mission of closing opportunity gaps for those in our community who need it most. Most people don’t know this, but anyone can join forces with us by supporting our Community Impact Funds. Our Impact Funds are much like index funds, but for local philanthropy. Donors can give to support a particular cause – Youth Success, Cultural Vibrancy, Successful Aging and Livable and Resilient Communities – with the understanding that they will be supporting a broad number of vetted organizations of all sizes that are aligned with the donor’s priorities. This method of giving has a bigger and wider impact on social challenges in San Antonio. It also reduces friction in the donor experience because it reduces the amount of research that an individual would need to do to make an informed decision about where to donate with impact.
Q: How are we seeing this phenomenon down the line? Is crypto-philanthropy expected to grow?
A: We know that cryptocurrency owners are likely to encounter more regulations regarding reporting requirements, and this will become an even more common tax savvy way for owners to donate, much like stocks. I believe that good organizations try to meet the community where they are. As more and more people of all ages get involved in this space, I certainly expect crypto philanthropy to grow. We want to give more people the opportunity to participate, and we want to invite them to be part of the Area Foundation’s mission.
Hernán Rozemberg is the Director of Communications and Storytelling in the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Marketing and Communications Department.