University endowments have started accepting cryptocurrencies as donations; KU is one of them

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The endowment associations and foundations linked to U.S. colleges and universities most commonly take in donations of cash, stocks, art and land.

But a somewhat unorthodox donation method is on the rise at some universities across the country, including the University of Kansas: cryptocurrencies.

The increasingly popular digital assets, namely Bitcoin, operate using a technology called blockchain that’s decentralized and spread across many computers to manage transactions more securely.

Michelle Strickland, a spokesperson for KU Endowment, confirmed to the Times that the organization has had donors give via cryptocurrency.

“Yes, we accept all kinds of donations from farms to cryptocurrency,” she said in an email. “We are always happy to work with donors to help them find ways to support KU.”

Strickland said she couldn’t provide any further details on how much cryptocurrency KU Endowment has received in donations. Anyone wishing to donate cryptocurrency can call the organization and be walked through the donation process, she said.

“KU Endowment appreciates all gifts to support KU — a donor who wants to give a gift in the form of cryptocurrency is welcome to call us and we will work with them to set it up,” Strickland said.

It appears unlikely the public will know what level of cryptocurrency assets the organization holds. KU Endowment is exempt from state public records laws, and cryptocurrency assets aren’t specified on nonprofit federal tax forms.

Cryptocurrency donations may also offer a key incentive for donors in ways traditional donations don’t: capital gains tax breaks. A capital gain tax is placed on a person’s assets if they are sold at a higher rate than they were purchased — for example, if someone invests $1,000 in Bitcoin and sells that Bitcoin when it’s value is $5,000, they pay a capital gains tax on the $4,000 in profit they made.

Elsewhere, the University of Pennsylvania announced last week it had received $5 million worth of Bitcoin from an anonymous donor, Inside Higher Ed reported. Penn has also accepted two other virtual currency gifts that, when combined, totaled between $35,000 and $50,000 each.

The University of California Berkley has also dabbled in cryptocurrency donations, taking in over $50,000 in Bitcoin in 2017, Inside Higher Ed reported. The University of Illinois also accepts cryptocurrency donations, though it didn’t disclose the scale of those donations.

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