The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has become the first major UK charity to accept donations in Bitcoin.
RNLI has launched a pilot scheme for Bitcoin donations through a dedicated website. If the scheme is successful, the charity may integrate the digital currency into its standard donation pages.
Bitcoin is an internet-based ‘cryptocurrency’ launched in 2009. It is not controlled by any authority or bank but maintained by an online community.
Leesa Harwood (pictured), RNLI’s deputy fundraising and communications director, said: “The RNLI has a history of innovation in fundraising, holding the first street collection in 1891.
“Bitcoin is an innovative new kind of currency and we believe that accepting Bitcoin will result in donations we may not otherwise receive, as well as connecting us with new types of supporters.”
Harwood explained that the decision was made based on research into future trends to prepare for the likely eventuality that people would want to donate using digital currency as a donation or part of a legacy.
She added: “We want to lead the way in accepting and benefiting from all forms of digital currency, so we’re running this scheme to allow our supporters to donate Bitcoins through a secure online system. We’ve chosen Bitcoin as it is an established and widely recognised digital currency.
“This is a pilot scheme and we are looking forward to seeing how it will proceed as part of our interest in cryptocurrencies and how they may work in the future. We will of course closely monitor how much money is donated. We already have safeguards in place to monitor donations, however we receive them.”
RNLI provides a 24-hour search and rescue service at sea in the UK and Ireland from 236 lifeboat stations and more than 1,000 lifeguards at over 180 beaches.
The number of businesses and organisations that accept Bitcoins is gradually increasing and now includes Dell, Expedia, Cumbria University, airBaltic airline and Wikipedia.
This week chancellor George Osborne announced that the government plans to review the role of digital currencies such as Bitcoin in the overall financial system and whether they need to be regulated.
HM Treasury is due to publish a study in the autumn which will scope out the potential of cryptocurrencies, their role in society and business, and in the wider financial system.