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In the last few months devastating earthquakes have hit central Italy, devastating many mountain villages, killing nearly 300 people and displacing 22 thousand inhabitants. The environmentalist association Legambiente, and several partners, have since been collaborating on a crowdfunding campaign for those affected.

Legambiente (League for the Environment) is the most widespread environmental organization in Italy, with 20 Regional branches and more than 115,000 members. It is acknowledged as “association of environmental interest” by the Ministry of the Environment; it represents the UNEP National Committee for Italy, it is one of the leading member of the European Environmental Bureau, and of IUCN – the World Conservation Union.

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The bitcoin based campaign was Legambientes first foray into bitcoin donations, thanks to Helperbit. 59 percent of the campaigns goal, over eight bitcoins, have already been raised. Five of those bitcoins were donated by insurance giant Swiss Re. 

– Helperbit

Helpbit is an Italian startup that uses Blockchain technology to allow people to donate digital and local currencies to charities and people in need all over the world, while tracking the donations and the manner in which they are used.

The company co-founders Guido Baroncini Turricchia, Davide Gessa, Davide Menegaldo, Roberto Tudini, Vincenzo Aguì and Gianluca Carbone, initially came up with the idea for their platform in 2009, after reading news about the ineffective management of charitable funds following the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake in Italy.

In 2012, the Italian il Fatto Quotidiano reported that the five million euros donated by Italians to help with building reconstruction were transferred to a guarantee fund, which locked up the funds for nine years.

“The lack of transparency that characterizes the traditional systems allows donative streams to be drained along their way to those who need it,” Helperbit states. “The lack of transparency puts people off donating and we want to unlock this unexpressed donative potential.”

Having officially launched in 2015, Helperbit now offers a bitcoin platform that allows people to donate digital and local currencies to charities and people in need all over the world. Donors can trace the funds and the manner in which they are used, offering true transparency.

– Helperbit

The recent fundraising campaign provided a specific case study for the Helperbit platform. The campaign funds are being offered to local entrepreneurs. “We want to support and promote their economic activities and finance projects presented by those that, in front of the tragedy of the earthquake, want to react, investing on new corporate initiatives in those areas,” Helperbit explains.

Among the many affected locals, the earthquake in central Italy has taken away everything Ilaria and Lorenzo have. The owners of Società Agricola Etiche Terre S.S., moved to the region less than a year ago to start the production of saffron, garlic and black truffle.

The farmers recently uploaded the first invoice on the Helperbit platform, activating a refund request from Legambiente. Much of the process is visible in the public Bitcoin Blockchain, including the proof of expenditure with a cryptographic reference to the invoice.

The document certifying the request and the transaction are now inextricably linked in the immutable and decentralized public register, giving the opportunity to verify the sender, the recipient and the justification. The process provides a higher level of transparency and increases donor participation. They know precisely how the funds are spent.

“Donors should be able to decide how their donation is used. Organizations that act properly should not be affected by few bad behaviors,” states Helpbit. “Our aim is to offer tools that allow the system to work with a complete audit of economic flows.”

Each campaign Helperbit runs uses multisignature technology. Recipients get as many multisignature keys as is appropriate for their organization. “This reduces drastically the risk of theft and misuse of the donations,” Helperbit explains. Donors also receive a key. Helperbit Donors can fund their accounts by either sending bitcoin or simply use their own debit cards. Organization can accept bitcoin or local currency.

The platform won second place in the iBank Challenge 2016 competition in December, taking home €11,000 after beating out all but one of the 83 contestants. The contest was promoted by the Italian Banking Association and organized by its own RD laboratory, ABI Lab.  

– Helperbit

Vaious Charities including the Red Cross and Greenpeace hace accepted bitcoins for individual fundraisers in the past, but typically they do not explore accepting bitcoin permanently as the size of the market is still too small. Unfortunately, few if any of these attempts have exposed the major charities to the technological benefits of using a blockchain.

Bitgive’s GiveTrack is one of very few similar attempts at tracking charity funding from donor to recipient. The platform has many of the same features as Helperbit, and has successfully run several campaigns. The Water Project raised $11,000, more than their $10,000 goal.