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Blockchain startup offers transparency tool to track donations to charity

Howard Lake | 4 May 2017 | News

Social tech startup Alice has launched a new tool using blockchain technology that will show donors to charity exactly what impact their money makes. 
The London-based startup is running a first appeal using the technology for homelessness charity St Mungo’s.
Alice works by “freezing” donations until charities can prove they have achieved their donation goals. The tools founders hope that this “will encourage more giving and support greater transparency in the third sector”.
This means that when donors give to a charity project on Alice, their donation is guaranteed to make an impact, or they get their money back.

St Mungo's appeal using blockchain fundraising site alice.si

St Mungo’s is pioneering alice.si’s blockchain-based fundraising platform

St Mungo’s appeal, called Street Impact: 15 Lives, aims to help lift 15 people out of long-term homelessness through intense personalised support. On its appeal page on Alice, St Mungo’s lists a number of specific goals it needs to achieve in order to unlock donations, such as helping individuals find and then stay in a new home.
The appeal has already raised £11,136.
The pilot is being delivered using grant funding from Nominet Trust’s Social Tech Seed programme. 
Vicki Hearn, Director of Nominet Trust, commented: “Alice has real potential to rebuild public trust in charities thanks to its innovative use of blockchain technology. Nominet Trust is proud to support Alice in piloting this platform, helping to lift people out of homelessness, and raising the bar for the transparency, accountability and security of charitable giving.”


Blockchain smart contracts

Blockchain technology has been used to benefit charities in the UK and further afield for several years. RNLI for example is one charity that has piloted accepting donations via blockchain-based cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
Alice goes further by making greater use of blockchain, in particular its ‘smart contracts’ function, to track donations, to help demonstrate impact, and even to cancel the donation if its impact can’t be demonstrated.
The company’s founders describe its service as “a major step change in ethical fundraising” which should “help redress the decline of public trust in charities and tap into donor demand for more information about their impact”.
The benefits of Alice are to:
● Make the performance of charity projects public, and fully auditable
● Ensure performance data is secure and extremely difficult to falsify or hack
● Manage the conditional payment of donations based on charity performance
Donors who respond to appeals such as Street Impact: 15 Lives can track when goals are met and when their gift is paid to the charity. Each appeal specifies how goals are verified, and who validates them.


Alice’s smart contracts are built on the public blockchain Ethereum. This enables donors to make donations in pound sterling, using debit or credit cards, thereby avoiding the volatility of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
This ability to apply the blockchain to fiat or “real world” currency is run partly in partnership with the Financial Conduct Authority, within its sandbox programme which aims to foster innovation in the financial services industry, and with Tramonex Labs, a fintech startup that issues e-money on the blockchain.

Building trust

Raphaël Mazet, CEO, Alice, said: “The charity sector is currently going through a crisis of public trust. We want to address that by helping trailblazing organisations like St Mungo’s, who are committed to transparency, to raise more funds for the amazing work they do.
“We’re excited to be launching this first pilot with an appeal that will make a really positive difference to the lives of 15 people. We hope to scale the project to help many more people if it’s successful.”
Rebecca Sycamore, Executive Director of Fundraising at St Mungo’s, said: “This pilot gives us more flexibility than usual commissioned services do. This allows us to give these people the personalised support that we know will help them rebuild their lives away from the streets. 
“We’re very pleased to help pilot this innovative funding platform, working with Alice and partners in Westminster and the Greater London Authority.”