Cryptocurrency donations for churches
Thursday, January 27, 2022
Clynt Reddy, Executive Director of Operations for River Valley Church and James Lawrence, Co-Founder/CEO of Engiven sit down for an interview about cryptocurrency donations for churches, and how River Valley Church saw over $400,000 in crypto donations.
Each year, River Valley Church hosts an annual event called Kingdom Builders, where they ask church attendees to give generously to different projects including global missions, future leadership development, and local church investment. With eight campuses spread across the Twin Cities of Minnesota, River Valley Church recently partnered with Engiven, a leading cryptocurrency donation management company, to enable people to give their tithes and offerings through cryptocurrency as well.
What River Valley Church didn’t expect to see was over $400,000 in crypto donations come in at that specific event. We sat down with River Valley to talk about how they made the decision to add crypto as a way to donate and how they plan on funding their Future 500 project to raise up and send out 500 missionaries from their church with crypto donations.
How cryptocurrency donations for churches are helping
Engiven: When did your church/organization first get introduced to accepting crypto as a donation?
Clynt Reddy, Executive Director of Operations River Valley Church: The journey for us began 12-18 months ago as a conversation. It happened around the time that the pandemic was accelerating the growth of the crypto market. As we learned about it from people on our team and people at our church, it became a topic of conversation with our leadership team for some time. Then as we got to the middle of the year, it became one of our strategic goals. It became a real opportunity for us to at least provide an outlet for crypto donations to be part of the offering of how people could give to the church. That started us on the journey to find providers that did that. Our initial investigation was through our own church database, which is Rock RMS and all of our processing happens through that. There is also another company connected to our church that does all of our credit card processing. So we reached out to both of those organizations and their key leaders and asked if they had anything turn key that could do that. They both said that they do not have those integrations built out yet.
Engiven: How did you get introduced to Engiven?
Clynt Reddy: It was around that time that the Lord led us to Ryan, who goes to our church and also works at Engiven. He reached out to our Executive Pastor and said, “Not sure if you are thinking about crypto donations.” Ryan didn’t know that we had already been having all these conversations as a leadership team. He showed us a demonstration of how it worked in August. We loved how turnkey it was, the interface was superclean, and creating an account and accepting donations was easy. We thought, “This organization has really thought through everything for churches in this space.”
Our finance and technology team took some time to vet it too. They wanted to make sure it could integrate into the systems that we use, that it was easy for people to use, and the accounting system worked. It checked all of the boxes there.
Engiven: What did the launch of crypto donations look like for you?
Clynt Reddy: We debuted crypto as a way to give with Engiven in late October of 2021. We actually debuted it at a special annual event that we have called the Kingdom Builders banquet. In our church, when it comes to generosity, we teach about how the tithe is giving back 10% of their earnings to the local church. We feel that in addition to that, we want to be over and above generous. So we created this annual event called Kingdom Builders. It really is a list of projects including global missions, future leadership development, and local church investment. We ask the local church to give in addition to their tithes and to pledge gifts and then give generously to all these different projects. In any given year, we usually have $6-8 million worth of projects that we want to give over and above. We do a banquet where we share the vision behind that and really ask some of our most dedicated people to start a “wave of generosity.” The thought is that we are the first ones in and let’s see what the Lord can do with our generosity to inspire the rest of the church to also be generous. So we debuted it in that setting. People could give cash, check, credit cards, or crypto. We had 20 people give and over $400,000 was given just from crypto alone at that specific event.
Engiven: What was your initial response?
Clynt Reddy: It blew us away from that there are people in our church that are holding on to these assets. For tax and for generous reasons, they want to be able to give it to organizations that they believe in and those that are doing great work. For us, we were thrilled to have a tool like Engiven at that event to see the number of generosity people was wanting to do through crypto specifically. It was an amazing evening and we believe that having the door open for people to give via crypto was part of the reason we had such amazing generosity that evening.
Engiven: What did the decision-making process look like for your organization/church?
Clynt Reddy: We had to answer some of these questions as a church.
Is this really a thing?
Do people really have crypto? Are they going to be generous with crypto?
Is this just a fad?
Who knows how long this will last?\Is this safe?
Are we introducing undue risk into the organization?
Are we partnering with an organization we can trust? Have they been vetted?
These are all part of the vetting process whenever you bring on a new software partner or asset class. I think for us the relational equity was huge and then coupled with the demos was very helpful for us to see too how the Salvation Army is using the platform, that helped too. From how simple it was with clicking the wallet address link to the giving receipt and how it is deposited via ACH the next day, when you see it in action, many of those operational questions are answered. Engiven for us checked all the boxes - safe, effective, reliable, clean, easy.
Engiven: What is something you wish you would have known or someone would have told you about accepting crypto?
Clynt Reddy: Crypto at large can seem like such an elusive concept. Even the idea of blockchain and how it all works sometimes exists outside the boxes we have created, how finance operates and how markets operate. There is a little bit of intimidation factor at times. How does someone give you bitcoin? It’s not like cash or check. It has such a different feel to it. I think the thing I wish we would have known is that the exchanging of that crypto is similar to the exchange of many other things. It is what we are seeing in Facebook Marketplace or how we use credit cards. It’s all about creating a platform to make an exchange from one set of hands to another set of hands. I think it helps calm people’s concerns. All we are doing with Engiven is creating a base for that exchange to happen, as people hold one asset and move it to another person's care. The exchange is also the conversion of it moving from one asset class to another asset class. We do that with stock transfers all the time. So helping people see that it is similar to how stock transfers occur in any church or non-profit setting. A similar thing is happening with respect to crypto.
Engiven: Why did you choose Engiven and what has your experience been like?
Clynt Reddy: Now that we are into the product and now that we see how it is working the interface to me is so simple and it's so clean. I just love that it is not trying to do too much. It is just doing what it says it's doing, and that is creating a great space to exchange value from one individual/organization to another. I love the cleanness and the succinctness of that. I love how Engiven understands the donation world like receipts and making sure the funds get to the organization as quickly as possible. I also love that some of the backend work is even handled by Engiven instead of us, which is really helpful.
Engiven: What type of encouragement would you give to a church/organization that is considering accepting crypto?
Clynt Reddy: We were blown away by the level of donations that can come in via crypto. There are people in our churches and in our communities that maybe were early adopters in crypto or maybe they took a chance on it and now some great things happened with it. What we are realizing in our church is that people want to be generous. There are people that are connected to our missions. There are people that see the vision of what is happening through great organizations. They want to be able to invest incredibly into that work. The more avenues that we can open up to make those donations possible, the better. It’s really thinking through all the different asset classes that could be a part of someone’s investment strategy in terms of their generosity. Why would we not also not just open the door to crypto? We may not know them yet, but there are definitely people in our networks of influence that have those assets and are thinking about ways that they can be generous with them. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.
Engiven: How do you see crypto benefitting the Church in the future?
Clynt Reddy: I think it helps us to be on the leading edge. It helps us to stay in step with all the technology and other innovations happening in our world. I think that gives us a degree of credibility or trustworthiness. There are a lot of people getting into crypto that understand the markets. They understand stewardship and finances. For a church or non-profit to be front and center and say, “We see the trends just like you do and we want to provide avenues for you to be generous, just like you would be generous with any other thing you may hold on to or have in a portfolio.” I think it helps donors, especially high-level donors see a level of credibility and innovation in churches and nonprofits that go a long way in helping them find a level of trust and vision.
Engiven: We would love to hear any highlight stories you have from crypto giving. Did a donation fund a new outreach project? Building project?
Clynt Reddy: The initial catalyst for us was a couple of people going to our leadership saying, “I would like to sow generously into the work that the church is doing. Currently, the best way I am going to be able to do it is through crypto. Is there any chance that you are going to open up doors for that to happen?” That started the conversation for us to set up crypto donations. At the Kingdom Builders event, we raised close to $1.5 million, and close to 30% of it was given through crypto, which is incredible to think about the market share that crypto had on an event like that. The biggest investment we have as a church is a program we call the Future 500. We believe that the Lord has asked us to raise up and send out 500 missionaries from our church to give at least a year of their life in an overseas context sharing the Gospel with someone who hasn’t yet heard. What crypto is going to allow us to do more than anything else is to establish a fund base to train, support, and send out and receive back from our own church to share the Gospel with people who have never heard it before. That’s the heartbeat. The more people sow into our church, the more we want to fulfill that specific call and mission. I’m not going to be surprised one bit if that is done primarily through crypto.
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