The NFT4Good AAPI 88 Campaign: Innovating Community-Based Philanthropy
An Unlikely Intersection: Activism, Philanthropy & NFTs
We are witnessing an unprecedented rise in hate crimes and racially-motivated incidents against the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition of Asian American advocacy groups, has reported nearly 3,800 incidents since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic with Voice of America reporting a 150% increase in hate-fueled attacks in 2020 alone.
There has already been an abundance of commentary analyzing this rise in hate and how it is connected to the insidious history of racism against Asians in America. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the incarceration of Japanese Americans, Asian Americans have been seen as the ‘perpetual foreigner’ and often positioned as the ‘model minority’ amplifying racial tensions with other communities of color. Asian Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic group in America. Despite this powerful demographic, we have yet to reach our full potential in becoming a force to be reckoned with; rather we have remained disconnected and easily identifiable as the ‘yellow peril’ — as we are now seeing with Asians being blamed for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many of us are still grieving, processing, analyzing what led to this moment; this failure to uphold the rights and dignity of our community members — especially our most vulnerable, our elderly. As lawyers who jointly have over 20 years of experience in community-based advocacy, commercial transactions, and fund development — this is the first time we have come together as a couple to utilize our collective skills and networks to turn our grief into action and to help us move past the pain of this current moment.
The intersection of Asian American activism, philanthropy, and NFTs is about as unlikely a combination as it gets. But the ‘Medici Effect’ is a good example of how the intersection of diverse disciplines and industries can lead to disruptive innovation. As lawyers who have recently pivoted into the world of technology and venture capital, we have been thinking about how we can innovate our approach to community-based work.
Like so many other emerging technologies, we know that NFTs can be used for good. We are thus excited to highlight how the NFT4Good AAPI 88 Campaign — currently raising funds to support the #StopAsianHate movement — is an opportunity to innovate how we approach community-based philanthropy.
What in the World are NFTs?!
There are plenty of existing resources that do a dive deep into the technicalities of what an NFT(a.k.a. Non-Fungible Token) is, but, in layman’s terms: an NFT is akin to a digital certificate of authenticity over a specific digital asset that allows for it to be easily verified, sold and/or traded. This has created a new demand for a digital collectible marketplace, and since almost anything can be made into an NFT (recent headline examples include: a tweet, news column, music, digital trading cards, and of course, art), there are new NFT use cases that are being launched every day — some definitely more bizarre than others.
One of the most consequential implications of NFTs is the mainstream adoption and exchange of cryptocurrencies as an actual currency. The resiliency of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum may have surprised institutional investors but most now expect cryptocurrencies are here to stay. In early April, the SEC allowed Coinbase, the US’ largest crypto-exchange, to list its shares on Nasdaq which just had its impressive debut with a valuation of over $85 billion.
As a new asset class that has seen extraordinary returns, particularly throughout the ‘Coronavirus Cryptocurreny Craze’, there have been limited opportunities to actually use crypto in exchange for everyday goods and services. Visa, Paypal, and Tesla are just a few of the major retailers and companies that are now allowing customers to pay via cryptocurrencies. NFTs have thus just increased the marketplace exchange of where cryptocurrencies can actually be used as currency.
How NFTs Can Innovate Philanthropy
Like so many sectors of society, philanthropy and nonprofit fund development methods are in serious need of innovation. However the philanthropic response to the global pandemic this past year has shown the capacity of the industry to be nimble in times of crisis.
As we now look to sustain some of these nimble measures beyond the immediate needs brought on by the pandemic, there may be a unique opportunity to drive innovation into charitable giving by leveraging the explosive growth of virtual currencies. Indeed, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was quicker than many entities in considering the tax implications of virtual currency; similar to stocks, cryptocurrency exchanges are classified as securities or business property with traditional gain and loss principles.
Although blockchain is still a nascent technology, there are many exciting implications for the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors — whether it be more transparent processes without hefty transaction fees or providing a currency system for refugees in unbanked nations. Most importantly, it empowers nonprofits to access a whole new community of donors with strong financial incentives to donate the exponential appreciation of their cryptocurrency assets to charitable entities.
Many large nonprofit organizations, such as the United Way and Red Cross, already accept bitcoin donations, but smaller nonprofit organizations and foundations have yet to implement the capacity to accept crypto donations. The Asian Pacific Community Fund (“APCF”) is one organization that has opened a crypto wallet and is ready to accept cryptocurrency donations. APCF is also one of the largest AAPI community funds and has been funding local community organizations serving AAPI communities since 1990.
By intersecting the emerging NFT market with the philanthropic potential of cryptocurrencies, the NFT4Good campaign provides an exciting platform for donors to familiarize themselves with crypto platforms and to contribute their resources to the #StopAsianHate movement while innovating community-based philanthropy. NFT4Good has thus partnered with APCF to open a Donor-Advised Fund to support AAPI-serving organizations.
Even as the NFT4Good campaign spearheads the integration of such an emerging technology with new forms of digital currency, the partnership with such a credible community organization as APCF amplifies the history and work APCF has done on behalf of AAPI communities throughout the past 3 decades. The opportunity to innovate philanthropy while honoring the history of community-based organizations, such as APCF, is what makes this initiative even more meaningful and exciting for all parties involved.
Innovation For Good: The NFT4Good — AAPI 88 Campaign
NFT4Good is the first cause-based NFT platform — borne out of the desire to leverage the excitement and momentum around NFTs to raise money towards worthwhile causes. As many of us witnessed the heartwrenching rise of hate-fuelled incidents and crimes against the Asian American community — we wanted to dedicate this first NFT initiative to support the #StopAsianHate movement.
Our AAPI 88 campaign is thus a selection of 88 influential members of the AAPI community — represented by a variety of actors, comedians, entertainers, business and community leaders. In addition to creating a digital collectible NFT — to be auctioned off 100% for charity — the NFT will also come tethered to a physical collector card that is both serialized and authenticated. For buyers and donors who are still adapting to the fully digital world of purchasing a purely digital asset, the physical tethering to an actual card may make the transition more palatable.
It took us many years for us, personally, to realize that true innovation emerges at the unlikeliest intersections. As a lawyer couple, we have made major professional pivots in order to find ourselves closer to our “why” and the methods through which we feel we can make the most sustainable impact.
As we continue to explore the manifestation of the ‘Medici Effect’ in our efforts to give back to our communities and ‘do good’ — we look forward to continue evolving and contributing to our communities at the intersection of technology, innovation, and capital. Above all, we are hopeful that the NFT4Good — AAPI 88 Campaign is just the first of many innovative cross-sector collaborations to support community-based advocacy and philanthropic initiatives.
Sylvia Kim is a human rights lawyer turned VC working at an early-stage technology impact fund with a mission to unleash the power of technology for good. Sylvia has over 15 years of experience in rights-based advocacy, strategic planning, and fund development; throughout her career, Sylvia has co-founded a human rights organization for North Korean human rights, led the Orange County expansion of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and launched the country’s first National Asian American Community Foundation. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Sylvia practiced criminal law as both a defense attorney and as an Assistant Crown Attorney. Sylvia received her Bachelor’s degree at Queen’s University, her Juris Doctor from Osgoode Hall Law School, and completed her Master of Studies in International Human Rights Law (LL.M. equivalent) at Oxford University.
Eugene Kim is the Co-Founder of NFT4Good and MerchNFT. Eugene is an experienced corporate attorney and the former General Counsel of Webtoon Entertainment Inc. — the world’s largest digital comic platform and publisher. Throughout the past decade, Eugene has gained extensive experience in corporate affairs, IP management and licensing, employment, M&A and corporate finance while working in the technology, media and entertainment industry. Eugene received his Bachelor’s degree at Biola University, his Master of Arts degree at UCLA, and his Juris Doctor from Osgoode Hall Law School.