Doing Good with Crypto- A Conversation about Impact DAOs with Sam Flanagan
Doing Good with Crypto- Conversations with Web3 and Nonprofit Leaders is a series of Twitter Spaces co-hosted by The Life You Can Save and Crypto for Charity. In this conversation, Sam Flanagan visited to share her experience curating a collection of projects using Web3 for good and how she expects the sector to evolve in the future.
- Jon Behar from The Life You Can Save (host). Jon is a Strategic Advisor at The Life You Can Save and leads their efforts to build out the crypto-philanthropy program. Jon’s work has spanned both for and nonprofits and he’s passionate about making it easier for donors to maximize the social impact of their gifts. The Life You Can Save accepts crypto donations to support its operations or to support its recommended charities, and The Life You Can Save Australia accepts crypto donations from Australian donors who want to claim any eligible tax relief. The Life You Can Save also offers a variety of crypto philanthropy resources for those who want to learn more about this quickly growing field.
- Omar Antila from Crypto for Charity (co-host). Omar is the Product Lead at Crypto for Charity. He’s been working in tech for 20 years in various roles and has been involved in crypto since 2017. Omar is a web3 enthusiast passionate about harnessing emerging technologies for social good. Crypto for Charity enables thousands of US nonprofits, including The Life You Can Save, to accept zero-fee donations in over 100 cryptocurrencies.
- Sam Flanagan (guest). Sam is the co-founder of the Web3 for Good Newsletter, which she describes as a weekly roundup of all the different ways that we see Web3 being used for good. She is also a member of the programming guild at Boys Club, a social DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) and media company. Her presentation at the Sustainable Blockchain Summit Boston is available for online viewing.
Welcome everybody to a new edition of Doing Good with Crypto, a Conversation with Web3 and Nonprofit Leaders. I’m Jon Behar, from The Life You Can Save a nonprofit that identifies effective evidence-backed solutions that help the global poor. I’m joined by Sam Flanagan from Web3 for Good and by Omar from Crypto for Charity.
Hi everyone. My name is Sam. I am the curator or editor co-founder of the Web3 for Good Newsletter, which my co-founder and I describe to people as a weekly roundup of all the different ways that we see Web3 being used for good. I have a normal Web2 day job that has nothing to do with this, and my background is really in communications for tech companies and local economic development. So, I actually first got interested in what we now call Web3 back in when I was in grad school and around 2016 from the development perspective of the ways that blockchain could be used there that technology and then kind of like wasn’t really paying attention for a while, was doing other things. And late last year, when there was a lot of stuff with NFTs, at first I kind of was like, this is ridiculous. And then, I saw a use case where NFT was used to raise money to help people fleeing from Afghanistan.
And that kind of was like a light bulb for me of, wait a minute, like, there’s something here and I should learn more about it and not just turn my head away because I think that it’s silly. So that’s my background.
My name is Omar, and I am the product lead at Crypto for Charity. Crypto for Charity is a platform where anyone can donate cryptocurrencies and NFTs to support any US-based nonprofit and various causes. And this is all with zero fees, so we don’t take a cut from that. We also have tools for NFT creators to automatically allocate NFT drop proceeds to charity. And just as of today, we actually just launched a DeFi for Charity experiment. You can find more info about that on my Twitter if you’re curious what that means. And just for more context about Crypto for Charity: We’re actually part of a public benefit corporation called FreeWill and FreeWill has a mission to simply raise $1 trillion for nonprofits by creating technology to make impactful giving easy. So Crypto for Charity is part of that, just one aspect of the technology we’re creating for nonprofits and donors.
Great. And yeah, The Life You Can Save is a client of Crypto for Charity. You can donate to us or to any of two dozen charities that we recommend for zero fees. We think that’s just a super exciting new development for the space. But speaking of new developments in the Web3 for Good space, Sam, you do an amazing job of cataloging everything that’s going on in a really quickly moving space. So I’m curious, how do you even keep track of everything that’s going on in terms of Web3 for good?
A lot of times we feel like: are we keeping track of everything? Because it happens so quickly, right. But every week I’m always so surprised if we go to curate the newsletter and I’m like, oh, I don’t know if I’m going to have enough links this week. And then I go into my pocket where I save things and I have like dozens and dozens of things. But to answer your question, I mean, I have just always been kind of like, I don’t know, a link hoarder, you want to call it that? I’m primarily using Twitter, I am a newsletter person, which is probably why I kind of naturally gravitated to making a newsletter. So, when I’m interested in a topic, I just follow everyone that I can, subscribe to everything that I can. And then obviously you’re following one person and it leads to another. You’re kind of down that rabbit hole, and I save everything to pocket on, like a practical sense, and I go through and kind of read everything, block off time for that once a week.
But yeah, I mean, it changes quickly, and for me, it’s really been Twitter newsletters. A little bit of Discord, but yeah, it’s always a work in progress. I’m always looking for new sources. So definitely, if anyone listening has a newsletter or someone they really love getting information from, send that to me. I would love to know.
Very cool. Since you’re kind of just surfing the waves of change constantly and getting information from a lot of different places, I’m curious if you’re noticing any interesting new developments or patterns that are different now versus what happened in the space before?
I think, and maybe this is just because my entry point late last year was really from an NFT angle, so I take that into consideration with this. But I would say early this year, it felt to me like there was a lot more narrative around these NFTs and these communities and selling NFTs for different causes, and charities and opportunities. And I’ve just noticed, and maybe it’s just because I’ve kind of matured in the space and I’ve found better communities with a more nuanced conversation, but there seems to be more of a focus on kind of building, and community keeps coming up a lot. And it’s not that these are new developments, but I feel like it’s more of the dominant narrative than it was before. And part of that is the bear market, too, right? A trend that I’m noticing when I’m curating content and what people are more interested in reading and the stuff that people are getting more excited about.
Yeah, I’m definitely noticing that building utility focus right now, the narrative. But you’re right; I think a lot of it is about the bear market too because usually it weeds out the noise more. Usually, in the bear market, you have people who are more seriously passionate and invested in the space, and they’re focused on the actual problems we can solve in the space.
I totally agree with that.
So one thing that was really interesting to me, Sam, was you saying that you got started in the space, you started paying attention to the space due to humanitarian Afghanistan NFT. And when Omar and I spoke with Mags a couple of weeks ago, she had described the same thing, the exact same thing, buying an NFT that benefited Afghan refugees as kind of her “aha!” moment. So, it’s really fascinating to me that we’ve had two of these conversations, and in both cases, the same thing seems to have been the genesis of attention to this space a little more. So I’m curious how you think this will evolve over time with NFTs five years from now. How do you think nonprofits like The Life You Can Save will be using Web3 for good?
Oh, wow. The main thing that comes to mind that I love talking about is impact certificates. But I don’t want to totally steer away from that. That is an element of using NFTs, but tie it more closely to where we’re at now. I think there was this almost frenzy in late last year, early this year, of people like, let’s launch an NFT project and raise money for charity, and this is awesome. And I bought a lot of things like that too. And it’s great you feel good about yourself, cool. But there wasn’t a lot of like, strategy or thought behind it. I don’t think it’s the best thing to say, like, we made an NFT, buy the NFT – people are expecting more. There was kind of this blurred line where people were buying these NFTs that were like, for charity, for a cause, but they still had this kind of expectation that they could get rich off of it. Or that it was going to get them a ticket to a community of like-minded people. And I saw a lot of really well-meaning projects that kind of like shot themselves in the foot, really when they didn’t deliver on some perceived thing that people wanted.
So I think just in the short, like the more near term, I think we’re going to see nonprofit thinking a little bit more kind of contextualizing what they’re doing. And so if the plan is to launch an NFT and just raise money, and then that’s it end of the day, like, clearly communicating that and maybe going about the product a different way. But I also think there’s going to be some projects that are going to say, like, we’re building a community around this. Like we’re going to, I don’t know whether it’s meeting up in person or having certain utility or just being more engaged in things, so that’s more like in the near term and then long-term impact certificates. Which for people that don’t … I guess I don’t know the technical definition. But I would describe it as this verifiable documentation on the blockchain that you created some kind of impact. So whether that’s a common use case like carbon removal, but I think we’re going to see that more for poverty alleviation or helping someone go to school or whatever. And that’s like what I’m really excited about because that’s something that anyone will just be able to display their impact certificates in their wallet, and there are so many opportunities with that, but I won’t go down that rabbit hole.
But I think that’s the future of what nonprofits will start focusing on with Web3.
Yeah, that’s great. The impact certificates it’s like a natural evolution of having that participation certificate NFT, that’s kind of currently the thing.
Are you all doing anything with impact certificates yet?
There’s definitely like we’d be talking to some folks that are doing for example, the carbon credits. So that’s the only example I’ve encountered so far. But yeah, I think that’s a really valuable evolution, and I think it really ties well into the overall desire in the space. Like people who want to do good with crypto, they want to be able to measure and gauge the impact. And there’s definitely this lack overall in the nonprofit space of surfacing the impact easily to a donor, whether it’s crypto or any other donor. But especially in crypto, people are very interested in kind of seeing things more because that’s a whole movement about transparency and verifiability and all that. I think impact certificates are definitely a very attractive and useful thing there.
I think there’s definitely a lot of promise overall in leveraging NFTs for nonprofits. Like, it just gives you this path of collaborating with artists, for example, just to increase your reach. And for the artists too, that’s a great way for the artists just to increase their impact on causes they care about, where you can have celebrity or influencer-driven auctions again to increase that reach.
And in the future, I think we’re going to see more nonprofits just be comfortable holding on to NFTs as investment assets as well. It’s not happening yet. But I think that’s going to be a thing, I could see definitely happening, and just incorporating NFTs can really help build more engaged communities and helps with donor retention. This is kind of like a lot of nonprofits are pursuing that and building that community around some sort of NFT with maybe something that’s tangible, utility-wise, that’s definitely going to help with donor retention.
Definitely. I mean, I think it’s really important too that there are organizations like Crypto for Charity that can kind of be that middle ground. I don’t think if you’re totally new to the space… don’t just jump in and make an NFT, right? Work with people that understand the space. And that’s where I think it’s so reassuring to see that there are organizations like this that can go to the nonprofits and people who can really benefit from Web3 tech and actually help people make an impact with it in all the different ways that you’ve described and that I’ve talked about.
Yeah, for sure. How is it on the nonprofit side, Jon? How do you envision NFTs getting incorporated into your work?
So we definitely want to build relationships with artists and communities who are producing NFTs and want to involve a charity as a beneficiary to some degree. And we have received some donations from NFT communities, but we’re definitely looking to build as many relationships as we can. And if this seems like something that’d be interesting to you, please do reach out. But we’ve also used NFT in a couple of different ways. Our founder Peter Singer made an NFT to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a very famous essay that he wrote called Famine Affluence and Morality, which kind of lays out the ethical argument for helping people who live in extreme poverty. And so that’s kind of the root of what we do and the reason why we do it. So he auctioned that off last December and donated the proceeds to support our operations. And that NFT was actually bought by someone who’s definitely a crypto native, Mick Hagen, who is the founder of Hightop, which is a really interesting firm that plans on donating 10% of its revenue to charity. So they’re a good organization to keep your eye on. But longer term, when I think about what we want to do with NFTs, what Sam was saying about impact certificates is right up there.
We really want to help our donors understand the impact that they’re having when give to The Life You Can Save or when they give to one of the charities that we recommend. And historically, one of the resources on our website that donors have found the most useful is a tool we call the Impact Calculator, where you can look at any of the charities that we recommend and plug in a donation of a given size and have it output the impact that you’re going to have. So if you donate $25 to the Against Malaria Foundation, you’re going to buy five or more bed nets that are going to help protect people from malaria. We do that for each of our charities, and that’s been a very popular tool. And so taking that out of the sort of abstract, like something you can play around with online and actually tying it to real donations and putting it on the blockchain, I think is very exciting both in terms of the ability to motivate donors, but also the ability to have those donors communicate that causes that they’re passionate about to their networks. If you have that NFT available in your wallet, it’s a way to share the support that you have for these different organizations and causes. I think that can be a really powerful signal.
Yeah, for sure. And actually, that would be fairly easy to implement. Like you already can tie a donation to a measurable impact. So we should just do that. We should make an impact certificate NFT for those. Love it. Yeah, I agree. Let’s do it.
Alright, problem solved. Yeah. Just yesterday, I was looking at your site too, and that caught my eye too. It was really nice to see, like, okay, if I donate this amount, what does it actually do and how?
Note: this conversation was unfortunately cut off a few minutes early due to technical difficulties.
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Want to read more? Check out the rest of our Doing Good with Crypto: Conversations with Web3 and Nonprofit Leaders series.