Money

Charity giving away $86 million in bitcoin donates $5 million to fight poverty—with cash

The Pineapple Fund, a brand new charity project set up to give away an anonymous donor's $86 million of bitcoin to good causes, just donated $5 million to sponsor unconditional cash transfers to people in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda living in extreme poverty, according to a Reddit post from the fund's founder, who operates under the name of Pine. The donation was confirmed in a tweet by the receiving charity.

"Bitcoin has changed my life," Pine says in another post. "I have far more money than I can ever spend.

"My aims, goals and motivations in life have nothing to do with having XX million or being the mega rich. So I'm doing something else: Donating the majority of my bitcoins to charitable causes."

The most recent charity to receive a donation is GiveDirectly, whose mission is to "send money directly to the extreme poor."

"Traditional ways of giving internationally are complex," says GiveDirectly's website. "Overall it is hard for donors to tell how their money will be used, what this will cost, and whether there is any evidence that it works.

"We've created a simpler way: Modern payments technology has drastically cut the costs of sending money directly to the extreme poor, at the same time as new research has shown the powerful effects this has on their lives. We see these trends converging to make direct giving the benchmark against which the old, top-down models are evaluated."

GiveDirectly's team locates poor communities using publicly available data. Then it sends staff door-to-door to audit and enroll recipients. After quality checks, the team initiates digital transfers of "roughly $1,000 or around one year's budget" to recipient households.

"We use electronic payment systems; typically, recipients receive an SMS alert and then collect cash from a mobile money agent in their village or nearest town. We call each recipient to verify receipt of funds, flag issues and assess our own customer service," the site says.

Helping impoverished people by giving them cash has been shown to work well and produce lasting benefits in several countries around the world. "In many cases, cash programs are simply much more effective than in-kind transfers at turning dollars spent into positive nutritional outcomes," reports the Atlantic.

That's partly why so many billionaires and other leaders have been promoting the idea of unconditional handouts of cash, also sometimes called Universal Basic Income, and why various nations are seriously considering the idea.

Pineapple Fund reports it has recently donated about $15 million to a total of 14 charities, including Charity: Water and the Mona Foundation. Its biggest single gift has been to GiveDirectly, which has not yet been, but is eligible to be, rated by Charity Navigator, a site that has examined the financial documents of more than 9,000 American charities to develop an unbiased rating system.

As Pine underlines in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine, his philanthropic mission is to fund medical, technology-related and environmental research, as well as to fight domestic violence and sexual abuse. He himself likes remaining in the background.

"In fact, zero people in my life know that I'm behind [the fund]," Pine says. "I prefer keeping my identity a mystery." The focus should be on the work: "I think any contribution to those causes will bring some good to this world we all share."

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