What One Nonprofit Learned From Embracing the Crypto Community
To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), a well-known mental health nonprofit in music circles, has found success in accepting crypto donations. The reason should sound familiar to associations—it quickly learned to embrace a new community.
Cryptocurrency is one of those trends that has the potential to be significant for associations, and for nonprofits in general.
Crypto grew significantly in 2021, with Fidelity Charitable reporting $158 million in crypto assets donated to its donor-advised funds during the first 10 months of the year. Individual donations are often larger as well—people who donate in crypto are more likely than traditional investors to donate $1,000 or more to a nonprofit.
But sometimes, it just makes sense. It certainly did for To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), a nonprofit mental health organization famously associated with the punk and emo music scenes of the late 2000s. The organization has found a new audience—and new sources of fundraising—by leaning into both crypto donations and the community around cryptocurrency, said Lindsay Kolsch, TWLOHA’s co-executive director.
Kolsch characterized the crypto crowd as an audience that engaged with the nonprofit as teenagers and then moved to other pursuits as they grew older, such as online streaming and cryptocurrency.
“We knew that there was this overlap between even the Twitch world and people who met us on the Warped Tour as a teenager, and they were sort of moving forward in their careers,” she said. “We kind of just trusted that there’d be some overlap.”
Once TWLOHA made its interest in working with crypto known, it found an eager audience within the communities it hoped to reach—and found donors who remembered the nonprofit from their youth and wanted to step up.
“That community, they care about mental health. They’re passionate,” Kolsch said. “We just kind of opened the door to make it a streamlined, accessible giving experience for them.”
A Community-Driven Approach
James Inks, a community and influencer relations manager with TWLOHA, noted that this approach has parallels with how the organization has traditionally worked.
“One of the things that To Write Love has always done well is meeting the community where the community lives,” he said, citing the organization’s outreach efforts at events such as the Warped Tour, EDM festivals, and later through networks such as Twitch and TikTok. “We’re trying to do the same thing that we’ve done in the Warped Tour world or the Twitch world and meet the crypto community where it stands.”
This, Inks said, has led to increased interest within the non-fungible token community in particular, where those who own NFTs have already created a community environment. Organizations such as TWLOHA have benefited from their association with NFTs, especially in cases when NFTs generate royalties after being sold—royalties that have at times been donated to TWLOHA.
The Underlying Technology
Moving into the crypto space can feel like a highly technical process for organizations that aren’t used to it. But intermediary organizations can help manage the more complex details of the process—for example, wallets managed by these companies allow nonprofits to accept even more obscure cryptocurrency variants, as well as NFTs.
TWLOHA worked with one such firm in The Giving Block. Inks noted that The Giving Block converts the crypto donations to U.S. dollars and manages crypto gifts through wallets, so the donations are available immediately to the organization.
“This staff time in the actual dollar cost of onboarding with The Giving Block versus what we’ve already gotten back from it has been roughly tenfold,” Inks said.
What Associations Can Learn
Inks noted that crypto, despite being complex, can scale to the needs and interests of a nonprofit—you may not have to devote much time to crypto at first, but it has the potential to grow as institutional knowledge does. He pointed to the example of working directly with NFT projects on the chat network Discord.
“If you have the staff time to do that, and if somebody wants to gain that knowledge, you can go that deep if you want to,” Inks said.
On the flip side, he added that it’s important to be aware of the negative effects of cryptocurrency on the environment—which may make crypto a nonstarter based on the organization—although newer types of cryptocurrency are less dependent on energy consumption.
Kolsch said it is important to set boundaries on what your nonprofit is willing to do with crypto or NFTs.
“We’re pretty clear with anybody who reaches out about our process,” she said. “‘Hey, this is how we choose to work with an NFT: We don’t promote you on Twitter. We’re not advocating for your success. We’re just enabling you to have access to any support we offer when we’re working with a community.’”
(BlackJack3D/iStock/Getty Images Plus)