Tag Archives: Austin

Will Your Nonprofit be Ready for the Future of Payments?

This article was originally published on nten.org in January

15NTC poster

from nten.org on instagram

One recent sunny afternoon in Austin, I gathered with a small crowd of NTEN 501 Club NPTechies to lunch and learn about digital currencies and payments innovations.

We were there to talk about Bitcoin—what it is (digital cash), what it isn’t (internet not required), why you would want to take advantage of it (0% transaction fee, anyone?), and what you need to know before implementing (multi signature wallets!)

The informal discussion was led by presenters, David J Neff, Digital Strategy Manager at PwC and Jacob Parks, Legal Researcher at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. (You can watch the whole thing on Capital Factory’s YouTube or read my blog post for a summary.)

Most importantly, I learned that tech-savvy charities need to address changes happening in the payments landscape NOW.

Timing is perfect for you to learn from trailblazing organizations already breaking ground on the new frontiers, while still being early enough to claim advantages for your own cause. For example, digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, offer an excellent fundraising currency for micropayments and microlending because they provide a platform where you can give $0.25 without credit card fees eating it up.  Organization who have a good strategy in place will be poised to gain exposure to new sources of support with little accounting risk.

Digital currencies aren’t the only thing shaking up the payments landscape. Changes in physical security, such as chip-and-PIN (smartcard) technology, are already being used widely in Canada and Europe and will be expanding in the United States. ApplePay and others are radically increasing the adoption of tap-to-pay NFC platforms, especially in event-based scenarios. Will your nonprofit be ready?

All this innovation has not gone unnoticed at the major nptech software companies, either. PayPal has added digital currencies and wallets to its lineup for merchants and more is on the way. Even Microsoft is accepting Bitcoin! Software providers who want to keep their customers are looking for creative ways to integrate more payment options into their solutions. As they do, more charities will have more ways to connect with donors within existing toolsets.

At the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference, we are going to take this discussion to the next level with an expanded panel of experts to talk about how payments innovations are changing the way organizations engage with their constituents. David J Neff will join NTEN veteran, Jason Shim from Pathways to Education Canada, as well as pros Alissa Ruehl from Blackbaud and Robin Dupont from PayPal in a panel you won’t want to miss!  

See you in at #15NTC

NTC15 Session #1048:
Cryptocurrency that Cares: A primer on how digital currencies and payments innovations can help your organization

 Follow along on Twitter with #15NTCmerchant on Wed, Mar 4 1:30pm – 3pm CT

Nonprofits and Bitcoin – 501 Tech Club Austin panel

In October, the Capital Factory hosted the 501 Tech Club of Austin, an affinity group of NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Network which is a community transforming technology into change. The panel was entitled “Nonprofits, Bitcoin and Digital Currencies.” Presenters included David J Neff, Digital Strategy Manager at PwC and Jacob Parks, Legal Researcher at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.


Before our discussion began, participants got a quick primer in bitcoin. You can learn more about Bitcoin in this primer from Princeton:


In the June issue of NTEN: Change, members read about how Bitcoin may be a game-changer for fundraising and nonprofits:

You can also watch this accompanying recorded webinar with David J Neff and Jason Shim of Pathways of Canada:


Some of the key learnings from the panel included:

What is digital currency or Bitcoin?

  • Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer digital currency. There are many “altcoin” alternative digital currencies too.
  • It’s like digital cash. Once you pass it to someone, there is no real way to track it. 
  • You store your coins in a vault at an online exchange (eg, Coinbase) which generates a wallet key you use to exchange coins. Be sure to pick a reputable exchange!
  • You don’t need a computer to pay with Bitcoin (eg, write your vault number and pass it on a napkin.)
  • Bitcoin value fluctuates more than traditional currencies, making it also like an investment. (Around $650/coin once, now closer to $430/coin and still on the move!)
  • Mining Bitcoins is very complicated. 
  • Accepting Bitcoins on an e-commerce website is technically very easy.


Why Bitcoin?

Advantages of implementing Bitcoin at your organization include:

  1. Access to new markets and supporters by being a first leader
  2. Reduced (or zero!) transaction costs 
  3. Increased opportunity of provide micro-financing internationally, especially where anonymity increases program effectiveness (eg, instances of govt oppression, etc) 



Tips for reducing your exposure to fraud:

  • Always use 2 factor authentication for bitcoin transactions (eg login with a password, confirm with a text message)
  • Segregate duties (for digital currency transactions, same as you would to reduce check fraud at your organization
  • Multisignature wallets coming soon — support segregation of duties by requiring at least 2 signatures to spend
  • Hot wallet vs Cold Vault — keep a portion of coins in wallet for current use. Unused coins can be put in “cold” storage on a computer that is not connected to the internet

Know before you implement

Before adding bitcoin, know how to account for it! There are no GAAP standards yet, although the IRS has released a statement that bitcoin will be treated as property. Have a strategy in place before you start accepting transactions.

Number 1 source of fraud at organizations is check fraud (#2 is falsified expense reports). Minimize your exposure to risk by segregating duties to spend digital currencies. Implement multisignature wallets as soon as possible.


Why now?

By implementing now, organizations can become a leader in nonprofit bitcoin use while still being able to learn from the experience of those already transacting. Organizations can gain exposure to new markets for fundraising messages with little additional accounting risk. Be prepared for the day when a major donor walks in and asks to leave their endowment-starting donation as bitcoin!


Additional links mentioned during our discussion:


How to mine bitcoin–one of many examples available via search! (this is not an endorsement of any product):


Newsweek article on the guy who didn’t invent bitcoin:


Do you have a link to share about Bitcoin and Nonprofits? Leave a comment!

Travel Tips for Families: Austin and Chicago

(This article was co-authored with Kendra Thornton and was originally posted on Rose is A Rose. Reposted with permission.)


Traveling with families can be a joy that creates a lifetime of memories. Travel expert, Kendra Thornton and I have created these guides to each of our respective home towns. You will find this article full of tips for anyone traveling to Austin or Chicago with their families!


Part 1: Local’s Guide to Austin, TX

By Stacy Dyer

Austin is famous for its music, food, and sports; yet it’s the distinctively “weird” Texan culture that reverberates through visitors, young and old. Families visiting Austin can visit these top spots to get a taste of the quiet beauty and unique culture locals enjoy year-round.


Walk in the Park: Zilker

Zilker Park is one of Austin’s best-loved parks. While swimming in Barton springs can be refreshing, there are plenty of other attractions at Zilker. Don’t miss the long-running Zilker Zephyr miniature train ride and for a little touch of local Austin musical history, visit the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn next to Lady Bird Lake. There are plenty of sports including weekly soccer tournaments during season and an 18-hole disc golf course. Depending on when you visit, Zilker Park plays host to a variety of special events and performances, some of which are free. In the spring, you can find free Shakespeare in the Park at The Sheffield Hillside Theater and in the summer, Blues on the Green provides regular musical performances. Austin City Limits music festival, hosted at Zilker every fall, provides an intense, immersive experience for every musical taste. During the holidays, a magical Trail of Lights culminates in the towering Zilker Holiday Tree.


6th and Lamar: A “Whole” lot of Weird

Not just a grocery store, Whole Food’s world headquarters is an experience! Even if you aren’t doing your weekly shopping, there is plenty to enjoy at Whole Foods flagship store. Beer lovers can walk through the refrigerated beer aisle. And those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the chocolate fountain in the bakery. Park in the below-ground garage and have your groceries delivered to your car with a special elevator! Top off your shopping expedition by grabbing a quick sandwich or salad bar to enjoy on the outdoor patio. Wash down your lunch with a locally-brewed Sweet Leaf Tea. Stroll across the street to shop at Austin institutions such as Bookpeople or Waterloo Records and buy a “Keep Austin Weird” t-shirt to commemorate your trip.

Where to Stay: Driskill Hotel

The historic Driskill Hotel is a luxurious downtown hotel that provides everything travelers need with distinct Austin style. Young guests are “deputized” upon check-in with an official Driskill Deputy sheriff’s Badge and presented with a certificate signed by Colonel Jesse Driskill, the hotel’s founder. Kids also get a coloring book and crayons, and free cookies! No historic hotel would be complete without a haunting or two; ghost hunters should ask for the official list of ghost stories at check-in.

Where to Eat: Food Trucks

Who wouldn’t want to be served gourmet-quality dishes from a restaurant on wheels? Austin food trailers are unique and delicious. Sample different menus in a kid-friendly lot at the Midway Food Park on S Capital of Texas Hwy, which even boasts a playground! For more, try the food trailer parking lots on South First Street, East Sixth, West Campus, or in the Mueller district. Wherever you go, don’t be afraid to sample something that sounds bizarre! (East Side King serves deep-fried beets so delicious, even the pickiest eaters will love them!)

Check out this map for more spots to bring your kids in Austin, TX!

View Austin kiddo spots in a larger map


Part 2: The Local’s Fun Guide to Chi Town

by Kendra Thornton

There’s a lot to love about Chi Town. It’s one of the birthplaces for American history, and it’s a vital mecca for food, arts, culture and music. Travelers from all over the world find the history and sports magnetism of Chicago to be an incredible adventure. From a local’s perspective, there are a few things that people can miss on the big tours that run the tourism show in Chi Town. Whether you are just stopping in for your first trip or this is your second trip, there are some amazing places to check out next time you’re wandering the Windy City.

Check Out Those Dinosaurs

The Field Museum in Chicago is located right off South Lake Shore Drive, and it’s one of the best places to see some art, culture and history for an afternoon. It’s also a good place for fun recreation if you’re traveling with kids. The Field Museum is most well known for its dinosaur fossils exhibitions, but there are all kinds of seasonal, yearly and one-of-a-kind exhibits that you’ll love to explore. If you’ve visited the museum in the past, you’re guaranteed to find something new the next time you go.

Sail the Waters

If you have the time on your next trip to Chicago, you should definitely take a trip out to see on the Tall Ship Wendy, a pirate boat tour on Lake Michigan. This adventurous ride is made for any sea lover who loves some adventure and lots of good humor. While educational, it’s also quite fun to explore with the entertainers on board, and you’ll get to learn about the area while taking in some incredible sights. There are tons of photo opportunities along the way as well.

Where to Stay in Chi Town

Whether you love the old historic hotels like The Drake or you want something more modern like The Peninsula, there are a variety of different hotels in downtown Chicago that offer incredible views and quick trips to wherever you want to go. To compare all of their rates and get the best ratings on hotels in Chicago, I’ve found Gogobot to be one of the best sites to find information. You can check out all of the four-star and five-star luxury hotels as well as cheap bed and breakfasts and highly rated three-star hotels that may interest you.

Eating Rich for Cheap in Chi Town

Chefs love Chicago. Whether it’s the sports, beer or just that deep-dish pizza, there are a ton of different world-renowned chefs who have started restaurants here. You’ll find some of the best restaurants while exploring the streets of Chicago, but one of the ultimate places to go any time of day is the South Water Kitchen in the Loop. A native Chicagoan makes food here, and the menu reflects that kind of flair and pizzazz. It’s also got all types of classic dishes, which is perfect for those picky eaters in your party.


Special thanks to Kendra for her contribution to this article!