Robbie Heeger is the the President and CEO of Endaoment, a community foundation & public charity offering Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) built atop the Ethereum blockchain. They allow individuals to donate to almost any U.S. nonprofit organization. They have a mission to encourage and manage the charitable giving of cryptocurrency.
How did you first get introduced to blockchain and cryptocurrency?
I first fell down the crypto rabbit hole in late 2013. At the time I was living with several roommates, one of whom had just been placed as a contract recruiter at the recently venture-backed Ripple Labs. He brought home the Ripple primer, which explained a bit about blockchains and cryptocurrencies and, of course, how Ripple worked.
A few of us wound up engrossed in the space from there. We were talking about it often, investing what we could afford in different projects. It’s been a wild ride since then. I feel immensely lucky to have been exposed to this tech so early.
Could you share the genesis story behind Endaoment?
Endaoment’s beginnings trace back to the Donor Advised Fund (DAF) I share with my brother at a local community foundation here in San Francisco. My previous job was at Apple, and while I was working there, I got into the habit of donating a little bit of AAPL stock each year to give back to a wide range of organizations and help offset tax obligations.
As cryptocurrencies became a larger part of my life and portfolio, I wanted to do similar kinds of donations. I approached our DAF provider, the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, and started working with their team on accepting crypto.
At the same time, I was learning how to code, and was looking for a good project to sink my teeth into. After seeing the available options for cryptocurrency donations, I thought it would be unique and fun to make a crypto-native DAF provider. I got to work on the codebase for a crypto-DAF and Endaoment was born!
Endaoment enables anyone to donate to Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs). Could you briefly explains what DAFs are for readers who are unfamiliar with the concept?
Loosely put, some would describe DAFs as “charitable checking accounts” where the account manager can only pay out to qualifying nonprofit organizations.
In practice, what happens is donors on Endaoment open a fund, send in their crypto donation to the Endaoment wallet, and we exchange that crypto for dollars. donors immediately receive a tax receipt, but the money can only go to nonprofits through grant recommendations.
These recommendations are made by donors, identifying which specific 501(c)(3) nonprofit should receive their crypto donation. Endaoment and the receiving organization review each recommendation and, if approved, Endaoment passes the dollars to the organization.
DAFs are all the rage! I kid, but they are exploding in popularity as people realize the convenience and flexibility of the vehicle. There are more than 800,000 DAFs in the U.S., accounting for 12% of all individual giving. We want to help educate the public and bring DAFs even more into the mainstream.
What’s the process for a charity to be listed?
We pull all of our data from the GuideStar nonprofit database. If you’re a qualifying U.S. based 501(c)(3) non profit, you’re already listed on Endaoment’s web application and ready to accept cryptocurrency gifts as dollars.
The first time a charity receives a grant recommendation (instructions to receive dollars from an Endaoment DAF), two on-boarding actions take place:
- The donor making the grant recommendation must deploy a blockchain address for that organization. This serves as a holding account on-chain for granted and approved funds.
- The organization must supply Endaoment with a bank account or crypto wallet address to deposit awarded dollars. Once provided, we transfer the funds from the holding account to their preferred withdrawal method.
Both of these steps are straightforward, occur inside our web application, and can be done on the same day the grant is made. We’ve gone from crypto to dollars wired into a nonprofit’s bank account in the same day. It’s really cool to see, especially when coming from DAF providers who can take weeks or even months to complete a grant to an organization.
What’s the due diligence process for verifying the authenticity of an organization?
We conduct a multi-part due diligence process. In truth, the process begins even before an organization appears on our platform.
We filter our GuideStar results to only show organizations that meet our Organization Due Diligence and Eligibility Criteria, so any organization that you’re seeing on Endaoment has already passed an initial due diligence check.
After a grant recommendation is made, we manually run additional diligence. What this looks like in practice is our staff making contact with the organization’s leadership.
We verify their program activity, discuss the work and programs that the funding will support, confirm that the recommending donor won’t receive any benefits from the grant, and verify that the organization doesn’t support activities that violate our Organization Funding Policy.
Assuming all of those checks come back copacetic, we gather payment information, verify the ownership of the desired withdrawal account and send out the granted funds to the organization.
Can you discuss the process for how Endaoment distributes the funds to the organizations?
We have two methods that organizations can use to withdraw granted funds. By far, our most popular option is to be paid via bank wire.
We’ve partnered with Circle, the team behind the USDC stablecoin (essentially a cryptocurrency whose value is always one dollar), to enable programmatic wire payments. They take our crypto dollars along with wire instructions and transfer the value directly into organizations’ bank accounts.
The other option organizations have is to use their own (or a service provider’s) crypto wallet address to receive granted funds. In this case, organizations receive the dollars as USDC directly into their wallet address on the blockchain. As more organizations “get hip” to crypto, we expect to see more teams use their own wallets to receive gifts from Endaoment.
Do you have a favorite charity/organization that is listed on the Endaoment platform?
Shameless plug: Endaoment! What’s great about our platform is that we can use it ourselves to fundraise for our own operation. Every dollar granted to Endaoment on Endaoment goes right back into making Endaoment faster, better, more robust and easier to use.
Excluding ourselves, I’m most proud of the support our donors have provided to fighting climate change. We see the heated (pun intended) conversation around the environmental impact of blockchain technology, and are looking forward to being a part of the crypto community’s broader mitigation strategy.
How much has been raised for various charities and what’s the biggest donation so far?
So far we’ve raised just under $1.5million in crypto for charitable causes. We’ve seen donations ranging from $100 to $1,000,000 and grants ranging from $100 to ~$65,000.
We’re just getting started. As the crypto market continues to grow, I anticipate seeing our numbers grow.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about Endaoment?
We’re hiring! If you or someone you know is passionate about the intersection of philanthropy, finance and software development, we’d love to meet them.
But let me end with this: so many people ask me, “am I too late to get into crypto?” Unequivocally, my answer is NO! These are the very first few years of a major transformation in how each of us transacts, indexes and stores our valuables—digital or physical.
Endaoment is here to help each of us give some of those valuables away to those who are less fortunate with warm hands.
Thank you for the great interview, and for working on such an important project. Readers who wish to learn more should visit Endaoment.
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