The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has attracted a great deal of media attention in recent months, largely due to its incredible rise in value. Toward the end of 2017, the Bitcoin market had a total value in excess of $50 billion, which caused some countries to begin creating moratoriums on exchanges and initial coin offering funding. In October 2017, the currency officially split into Bitcoin and Bitcoin cash. Then, by the end of the year, Bitcoin surpassed $150 billion market capitalization and was trading at $10,000. What all of this growth means is that some people became very wealthy in a very short period of time. Thus, perhaps it is not surprising to see philanthropy grow out of Bitcoin.
In December, the first major Bitcoin donor emerged anonymously, going by the pseudonym “Pine.” According to an interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Pine got into Bitcoin a few years ago and now has more money than could conceivably be spent in a lifetime. As a result, he or she created the Pineapple Fund, a philanthropic organization that will put this wealth to good use.
The current Pineapple Fund website does not have a great deal of information about the goals of its charity, but several areas of interest have been identified, including environmental conservation, mental health and medical research, technology, and domestic abuse. Pine created the Pineapple Fund with a donation of 5,057 Bitcoin, which at the time was worth about $86 million. Since then, Bitcoin has lost some value and the donation is now worth around $65 million.
The charitable causes that have benefited from Pine’s philanthropy
Since the Pineapple Fund was launched last December, more than 15 charities have already received grants totaling more than $16 million. Many of the organizations that Pine chose are leaders in their respective fields, such as the Water Project, charity:water, and Pencils of Promise. Each of these charities received $1 million from the fund. In addition, Pine gave $1 million to Watsi, a global organization that leverages crowdfunding to finance universal healthcare and cover the cost of life-saving surgeries.
Beyond these larger, more familiar organizations, the Pineapple Fund also identified a number of lesser-known charities that will particularly benefit from the exposure and funding. One of these organizations is Quill, which provides free resources to students designed to help them become better writers. Pine also donated to New Story, a nonprofit that helps build new homes for families in extreme need. Both of these organizations received $1 million.
In addition, Pine has donated to a handful of smaller, technology-focused initiatives, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Internet Archive. The former organization is a nonprofit that promotes free speech and online privacy. The latter is a massive nonprofit library that provides access to books, music, software, and other media. The Pineapple Fund also pledged $500,000 to the BitGive Foundation, which focuses on implementing blockchain technology in philanthropy.
The Pineapple Fund’s biggest gifts
The Pineapple Fund has cast a wide net in terms of the causes that it supports. However, a couple of organizations have received much larger gifts than those discussed above, which perhaps points to Pine’s biggest philanthropic passions. For example, Pine made a $4 million gift to an organization called the MAPS project, which seeks to identify new pharmacological treatments for people dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The money donated to MAPS will help fund some clinical trials of novel therapeutic agents for individuals with PTSD. Pine’s generosity does not end there. The anonymous donor said that any other individual gifts made to MAPS will be matched one-to-one.
However, the single largest gift made through the Pineapple Fund went to a nonprofit called GiveDirectly, which takes a radical stance to ending extreme poverty. Working primarily in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda, GiveDirectly facilitates direct cash transfers to households in the greatest need. These transfers come with no strings attached; families can use the money any way they wish. GiveDirectly received $5 million from Pine. According to the organization’s founders, traditional giving has become complex to the point that it may actually discourage philanthropy. Increasingly, donors give blindly with no idea how their money will be used, and often with no evidence that it made a real impact.
Based on new research that shows the dramatic effects of direct cash transfers, coupled with modern payment technology that makes these transactions easier than ever, GiveDirectly created a different model. The organization sends people to the poorest neighborhoods, according to publicly available data, in order to enroll households in person. Enrolled families receive about $1,000, or roughly enough to live on for one year. The GiveDirectly model has received support from a number of important philanthropists, including Jacquelline Fuller of Google and Dustin Moskovitz of Facebook. The idea of “universal basic income,” or unconditional cash handouts, has gained significant traction in Silicon Valley.
A lot of mystery still surrounds Pine and the Pineapple Fund, but perhaps we will see more major investments in technology, poverty, and mental health moving forward. Pine has already hinted at other gifts, and individuals can pitch their organizations to him or her online through Reddit.