The author is executive director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at www.radioworld.com.
This has been a wild week in the world of cryptocurrency. Hints that the U.S. government will tighten up regulations and China’s crackdown sparked a precipitous fall of Bitcoin prices over the last few days. While there has been a mild recovery, attention on the speculative nature of this buzzy digital money persists.
For noncommercial radio stations, many of which rely on donations, the realm of cryptocurrency may seem weird. Indecipherable terminology and cryptocurrency named after memes are among the sideshows. Yet, thanks to Elon Musk, cryptocurrency has seen mainstream media coverage and massive growth. Is it too risky for noncommercial radio?
Cryptocurrency is all the rage in the nonprofit world. There’s Crypto Giving Tuesday to accompany the annual day of giving. This week, NPR joined the cryptocurrency movement as a verified publisher with Brave. Brave, a secure internet browser based on the Chrome core, has set up a plan where a publisher can accept a form of crypto called a Basic Attention Token. Users can opt to “tip” a publisher with BAT coins, which can then be traded for U.S. dollars and other real currency.
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As public media goes, the move is astonishing. Remember, this is NPR we’re talking about, not a fly-by-night unit. It may not be Tesla (which walked back its own jump into the crypto world), but for the biggest name in public radio to accept donations in this manner is unique.
What might a noncommercial broadcaster need to know if managers or the board of directors wants to get into accepting cryptocurrency in your donation portfolio? First, it is essential to understand that the finance community’s concern is based on crypto’s volatility. At this writing one Ethereum, a popular form of cryptocurrency, is worth $2,800. Less than two weeks ago, it was worth $1,000 less. That’s a bigger swing than even the riskiest stocks, and unfortunately its worth can be affected by far more random forces, such as tweets or Reddit speculation. Cryptocurrency can be exciting, but it may not be something to base a radio station’s capital campaign on, for instance. Consider it a long-term account that could be incredible in 10 years, or could be worth very little.
Setting up acceptance channels for your noncommercial radio station is not as cumbersome as creating other accounts, but will require diligence and forethought. Crypto “wallets” and other repositories for your donations may require complex security protocols. If you lose your passwords or other “keys,” you could lose access to everything.
Your radio station may wish to visit with your bank to see if they deal with cryptocurrency or have vendors they interface with, or recommend. There are many service providers that will accept crypto for your nonprofit and automatically convert to cash, if your banking institution shies away from it.
Your station may also wish to experiment with donation platforms, which make the setup for accepting cryptocurrency donations seamless. The trading site Binance is among many that provide a means for noncommercial radio stations to engage.
Cryptocurrency has taken many hits this week, but the hype is not going away anytime soon. Noncommercial radio looking to expand donation choices for audiences have a fascinating option, surely.