In December of 2013, the Acton Institute started accepting Bitcoin donations. Bitcoin is the first decentralized digital currency that is created and exchanged electronically. While the currency solely exists in an online capacity, it can be transferred or used to purchase non-virtual goods and services. It allows online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through financial institutions.
It's a new, cheaper, and easier way for some to transfer payment in the global economy. Bitcoin can easily be exchanged into currency, which is exactly what we plan to do with our donations. It would be unwise for Acton to use resources to try and speculate about the fluctuating value of Bitcoin in the market so we will immediately convert the donations into dollars. As I write this, one Bitcoin is currently trading at $605.
A few retailers accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. In 2014, the American retail giant Overstock.com will start accepting payment in Bitcoin. The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the Independent Institute, and Students for Liberty also accept Bitcoin donations. FEE accepted a 1,000 Bitcoin gift in 2013. I suspect only more liberty minded organizations will start accepting Bitcoin donations in 2014.
Because of the built–in privacy strength of the currency, Bitcoin's founders called it "very attractive to the libertarian viewpoint if we can explain it properly." There is no risk of identity theft through the currency transaction. Weusecoins.com offers an excellent two–minute video on their site that offers an overview of the digital currency and more of its advantages.
Accepting Bitcoin donations has also garnered positive media attention for the Acton Institute and helped to solidify our reputation that we are willing to be a trend setter and think outside the box in our fundraising. MLive.com, Michigan's largest media organization, ran a story in December about the Acton Institute's decision to start accepting Bitcoin.
While it may be a small constituency, some people feel, because of debt and central banks, currency is being increasingly politicized. WordPress, the popular blog software, accepts Bitcoin to support free speech in countries where payment is blocked because of issues they can't control. We want to be an organization that always encourages free expression and speech too. As we expand opportunities to raise funds and promote a free and virtuous society, we vow to continue to do the very best at being stewards of your hard earned gifts. Since we promote liberty and freedom here at Acton it makes sense to offer increased freedom in the ways that our donors are able to give.
Kris Alan Mauren