There’s no way a university was going to turn down a $10,000 donation.
The fact that it came in the form of Bitcoins was a small technical hurdle. Yesterday, the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma accepted a gift of 14.5 Bitcoins, or roughly the equivalent of $10,000, making it potentially the first U.S. college to accept a donation in the nontraditional currency, according to The Seattle Times.
The donation was made by Nic Cary, a 2007 business grad, who has a stake in seeing the digital currency flourish. Cary is CEO of Blockchain, which provides a virtual wallet for storing Bitcoin.
Bitcoins are still on the financial fringe, so Cary’s gift represents another way the currency system is going mainstream. Overstock.com and TigerDirect are two other businesses that have received a lot of publicity for accepting the alternative payment form, and back in November, The University of Nicosia in Cyprus said students would be able to pay for tuition with Bitcoins.
“We were a little uncertain how to proceed, as we had no gift policy on digital currencies and were unfamiliar with the process,” said Sherry Mondou, the University’s VP for finance and administration, in a news release. “But we greatly welcomed Nic’s thoughtful initiative and felt it would serve us well to learn to engage with the e-commerce world.”
The process to receive the gift was fairly involved. First, the university had to establish an online, nonprofit account with BitPay. Through BitPay, the university sent a “bill” in U.S. dollars for the pledged donation. Cary received the message and paid the invoice from half-way around the world in a Berlin hotel room.
A more risky move by the University would have been to store the Bitcoin in an endowment or trust, similar to owning stock in the hope that the value will rise over time. Instead, the University said the donation was converted into cash and deposited into the alumni fund, which supports financial aid, academic programs and research.
Maybe next time they’ll feel like taking more of a risk.