An interview with Drew Schroeder, Director of Digital Philanthropy for Direct Relief.
Direct Relief is a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay. Since 2020, Direct Relief has raised cryptocurrency with The Giving Block to further its mission and provide medical care around the world.
Many nonprofits are now getting into the crypto space. How has crypto fundraising been a worthwhile pursuit for Direct Relief?
Being involved in crypto fundraising has allowed Direct Relief to be introduced to several communities and philanthropists who might have otherwise never been connected with the organization. It has also provided additional donation options for content creators who run fundraising events on Tiltify, which is a nice benefit for both Direct Relief and the creators’ communities.
When did your team begin researching the possibility of accepting cryptocurrency donations? Did you face any major hurdles during the process?
The first crypto donations given to Direct Relief were in 2015 to support the organization’s response to the Nepal earthquake at the time. The team began to more thoroughly become involved in the space in 2019 since it naturally aligned with the expansion of engagement with several digital communities, like video game live streamers and other content creators. The initial hurdles were that it felt like a cloud of mystery surrounded the space and a massive amount of research would be needed to become involved with it. However, after reading a lot of literature and attending many webinars, it became apparent that simply being able to find an easy solution for accepting crypto donations was the top priority, since much of the community outreach would be executed through familiar digital channels like social media.
Getting an unexpected crypto donation is always nice, but can you talk about how Direct Relief has been more actively fundraising in the crypto space?
Direct Relief has become much more active on Discord as a result of becoming more involved with crypto-focused communities, and there has been a flow established for working with potential crypto fundraisers who reach out via email. Compared to years past, this has allowed Direct Relief to be more directly supportive of crypto community fundraising efforts and build relationships that last beyond single donations.
Having used The Giving Block to process crypto donations for a while now, which feature has been most helpful for Direct Relief?
The generous donation matches through The Giving Block’s programs have always been a pleasant surprise and taken a lot of pressure off of Direct Relief’s small digital team as we learn to navigate the space. The platform’s campaigns have also given great visibility to users on the type of work that Direct Relief does throughout the year and show a great blueprint for establishing annual fundraising events with crypto communities.
How are crypto donors helping fuel Direct Relief’s mission?
Crypto donors tend to forgo designations for their donations and allow Direct Relief to utilize their donations where they are needed most at the time. However, in 2022, crypto donors showed remarkable support for the organization’s response to the Ukraine crisis, which is in large part thanks to The Giving Block’s campaign that highlighted humanitarian relief efforts from several great nonprofits. Direct Relief has so far supported several groups in Ukraine by deploying over 1,030 tons of medical aid, including trauma kits, cancer drugs, insulin, antidotes used in chemical attacks, and more. Additionally, the organization has provided more than $20 million in financial assistance, including direct cash aid to support local healthcare organizations that help Ukrainian refugees obtain needed medications at no cost. This is all only possible because of generous gifts from people around the world, and the support from crypto donors for this cause speaks volumes about the community’s care and desire for a better world.
What’s been exciting to your team about crypto/web3/NFTs and their ability to impact charitable organizations?
The flexibility of having events that are entirely focused around crypto or having crypto be a beneficial addition to established fundraising efforts is a large part of what makes the future of working in the space exciting.
What do you think the future holds for Direct Relief’s crypto fundraising success?
The future could potentially have corporate partners, content creators, and other active fundraisers all utilizing The Giving Block in their programs, which means that as the space grows, so will those efforts and Direct Relief’s focus on them.
Lastly, what advice would you give nonprofits that are curious about crypto fundraising?
Even though crypto fundraising may seem highly complex and intimidating to research for anyone who isn’t familiar with it at all, it is important to remember that this is simply another option for people to support causes they care about. Once the initial steps are taken to enable donors to be able to support in a way that’s comfortable for them, the process of engaging with communities in this space will quickly start to feel familiar and not require knowing the intricacies of crypto. In Direct Relief’s case, The Giving Block removed most of the tedious legwork of figuring out how to process donations and choosing what types of crypto to accept, so the team was able to focus most of its time on communicating with donors and creating opportunities for more communities to have an impact.