About That Anonymous Donor Giving Millions in Bitcoin to Charity

photo:   Parilov /shutterstock

photo:  Parilov/shutterstock

Cryptocurrency philanthropy—that’s what they are calling it. An anonymous donor going by the name "Pine," reportedly among the 250 largest holders of Bitcoin (BTC) around the world, recently donated 5,057 BTC worth an estimated $86 million at current market exchange rates to establish the Pineapple Fund

While we may never discover Pine’s identity, when speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, the mysterious donor revealed a few things about what the Pineapple Fund is all about and why.

First, though, a bit of background on Bitcoin’s wild financial journey. In January 2017, BTC closed above $1,000 for the first time in around three years. By August, the Bitcoin market was valued at over $50 billion, and it was around that time that countries like China and Taiwan began enacting moratoriums on initial coin offering (ICO) funding and BTC exchanges. In October of 2017, BTC split into two digital currencies, Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash (BCH). At the end of the year, Bitcoin surpassed $150 billion market capitalization and traded at $10,000 for the first time.

Related: Is Bitcoin a Powerful New Friend to the World’s Poor? Some Funders Hope So

It makes sense that we're now seeing some of this crazy wealth show up in the philanthropy world. Pine, who got into Bitcoin some years ago and ended up sitting on a pile of money, asked, “What do you do when you have more money than you can ever possibly spend?” And answered, “Donating most of it to charity is what I’m doing.” The result was the creation of the Pineapple Fund.

The Pineapple Fund’s webpage doesn’t offer a large amount of information regarding its philosophy, grantmaking approach or giving priorities. A little digging, however, revealed that current areas of interest include medical research, mental health, wildlife and environmental conservation, combating domestic violence and sexual abuse, basic needs, and technology-related causes as main areas of focus.

Pine explained the choices, saying, “They align with my values and I think any contribution to those causes will bring some good to this world we all share.” Pine does not plan to become actively involved in the projects the fund supports and is looking to engage with a so-far unnamed nonprofit to help with the fund’s administrative duties. In the meantime, however, 16 charities have received a total of around $16.2 million in funding from the newly minted grantmaker.

Among the inaugural charities receiving donations from Pineapple are some familiar names like Pencils of Promise, charity:water, and the Water Project, which received $1 million each. And while Pine has said that he's not a huge fan of crowdfunding, the fund gave $1 million to Watsi, a global outfit that uses crowdfunding to finance universal healthcare and life-changing surgeries.

Other grantees represent a wide range of interests. For example, the fund gave $1 million to Quill, a free service to help students become better writers. New Story, a nonprofit that builds homes for families in need, also nabbed $1 million in funding from Pineapple. The fund also tossed in a few smaller donations to tech-centered outfits like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, nonprofit defending rights related to digital privacy and free speech. As well, Internet Archive, a nonprofit library offering millions of free books, movies, music, software, etc., accepted $1 million in support from Pineapple. Perhaps the most telling donation from Pineapple—not to mention the largest so far—is its $5 million contribution to GiveDirectly.

We've been following GiveDirectly for some time now. Back in 2013, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, hosted a party to introduce the charity, which offers direct and unconditional transfers to families in need. Some powerful players in the tech industry-backed Hughes, like Google’s Jacquelline Fuller, became supporters of GiveDirectly. The foundation of Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna has supported GiveDirectly, contributing nearly $50 million to the charity since 2012.

The fact that Pine is giving big to GiveDirectly is a tip-off that this philanthropist is likely from Silicon Valley, where there's been a lot of interest in a universal basic income. The gifts to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Internet Archive, other organizations favored by tech donors, are further tip-offs.