Charity Awards 2024

Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home

Pioneering crypto philanthropy to boost its income

When the pandemic hit, Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home had to look beyond its traditional fundraising channels to shore up its income. It also wanted to expand its donor base beyond its mainly local, East of Scotland constituency.

Edinburgh Dog and Cat HomeResearch laid bare the clear affinity between animals and online communities – photos and memes of cats and dogs are ubiquitous on the internet. The fundraising team had already had some success with virtual challenge events during the lockdowns and was pleasantly surprised to see that some of these attracted an international audience.

Taking this a step further, the charity agreed to a one-year trial of investing $2,500 into a crypto philanthropy platform called The Giving Block. A crypto donation widget was integrated into the Home’s website and a marketing plan was rolled out. The programme was launched to the public in August 2021.

The next month, an unsolicited donation of £26,000 arrived in the Home’s crypto wallet from a cat-themed NFT (non-fungible token) project. This prompted the team to engage more proactively with crypto and NFT communities on Twitter, and further donations rolled in.

In November the charity began connecting with a new crypto project called Pawthereum and arranged a video call with its instigators. A funding proposal was submitted and within two weeks the project made a donation of 26 Ethereum – £87,000 at the time of the donation – which was believed to be the biggest crypto donation in Scottish history.

In the first five months of the crypto programme, the Home raised over £150,000 via cryptocurrency donations. It has tens of thousands worth of pledges in the pipeline for 2022 plus new partnerships under development.

The Home is now recruiting for a digital fundraising lead and has secured a crypto pledge to fund the first six months of the role. It says it sees huge potential to develop crypto income much further in areas such as individual giving, major donors and possibly legacies and corporate partnerships.

With the initial $2,500 investment in The Giving Block being the only outlay, the Home’s crypto philanthropy programme has delivered an exceptional return on investment so far. The team has been sharing the story of its success widely to encourage other charities to test out the innovation.

Charity Awards judge Shane Ryan said that the Giving Block reports the average crypto donation to be 82 times larger than the average cash gift. He warned that cryptocurrencies raise issues around transparency, and that tax regulation remains a grey area in the UK, but nonetheless, the Home had shown “real endeavour during a difficult period”.

“It will be interesting to see if it can be sustained in the future.”

Judge Sarah Ellis said the activity was genuinely innovative, adding that if the charity sector can be involved in driving this new form of giving then it can also influence and impact the regulations that grow up around it.

“If we’re not part of that, and we set it to one side, then we’re not in that conversation,” she said. “Crypto is a powerful entity. There are issues, but money has huge issues too. I want to celebrate their entrepreneurialism; cats and NFTs – that’s smart.”

OSCR Reg no. SC 006914