Nonprofits in The Metaverse: Pros + Cons
As a nonprofit organization, you may already be feeling the need to take a stance on the concept of the metaverse or perhaps make decisions about “meta-related” activities like accepting crypto donations. Advances in technology, such as cryptocurrency, NFTs, and virtual reality experiences, have elicited a multitude of reactions from the community at large, ranging from enthusiasm to skepticism to complete disdain.
No matter where personal opinions lie, as nonprofits explore the metaverse and opportunities within, it’s important to have a holistic view of what is occurring and how your organization fits into the realm. We’ve compiled a list of pros and cons for your nonprofit to consider when thinking about entering the metaverse.
Ability to tap into a new donor market
The Giving Block, one of the largest crypto donation platforms, released a key data and statistics report in 2021 that shares some interesting insights. With a new wave of people investing in crypto comes a new segment of donors looking to donate those assets either for altruistic purposes, capital gains, tax benefits, or both. Data shows that most crypto donations are significantly larger than cash donations, averaging $11,000, nearly 100 times larger than the average online cash donation of $128.
Crypto users are also more likely to donate—nearly 50%—overshadowing the general investor population, of which the number is only 33%. Some popular platforms for crypto donations include The Giving Block, PledgeCrypto, Engiven, and Classy. NFT fundraising has also proven to be an incredibly effective and innovative way to raise money. This donor pool could provide an incredible influx of resources to nearly any nonprofit organization.
The Metaverse requires advocacy
The implementation of virtual worlds has brought with it a myriad of issues already, such as racism, sexism, cyberbullying, and online assault, and even outside of the screen, environmental and human rights issues have been called into question.
But, the presence of these issues is the very reason the metaverse needs nonprofits, too. As the metaverse is being built, it’s critical that changemakers, advocates, and nonprofit organizations are a part of the conversation and even the construction to help build and maintain a foundation and expectation of morality and a code of ethics.
Share your mission in new ways
The metaverse is vast and still expanding, but it has created new ways to connect with people all around the world. When marketing for your nonprofit, there are some meta-specific ways that you can truly move outside of the box and connect with an entirely new audience in the digital world. Games and interactive worlds in the metaverse have actual billboards and storefronts (yes, you read that right) where organizations and companies can purchase advertising space. Alternatively, some companies have created online “merch,” like shirts that people can buy for their virtual avatars.
Speaking and charity events can be hosted virtually, much like virtual concerts. Augmented reality and virtual reality can allow people to experience your mission firsthand. Is your organization’s mission to reduce deforestation? Why not create an experience where people can walk through the effects of deforestation firsthand and see the damage up close? The possibilities are virtually (pun intended) endless and continue to evolve.
While there are many pros to extending your organization into the metaverse, there are also many cons. One of the largest and most impactful downsides to mining cryptocurrency is its massive energy inefficiency. While there is no way to accurately determine the exact amount of computing energy expended by Bitcoin mining, the most common, it is estimated that this practice generated nearly 40 billion pounds of carbon dioxide in 2021 in the U.S. alone. For perspective, that’s enough to power a small country.
Cryptocurrency to date has been built on a proof of work model that is incredibly energy intensive. However, a new verification model based on proof of stake (deeper dive here) has emerged and is being refined, which aims to significantly reduce the environmental impact that cryptocurrency is creating currently, as well as make cryptocurrency more scalable.
Crypto donations have created a new donor market, but that market is immensely more volatile than what traditional donors and stock investors typically navigate through. Skepticism, cultural trends, and the sheer “newness” of cryptocurrency are some of the many factors that make this market an incredibly volatile one. While some level of volatility is expected in any investor market, the drastic and tidal ups and downs of cryptocurrency trends means that giving will also likely be inconsistent and more difficult to plan fundraising strategies around.
Ethics and human rights in the digital space
While extended realities (augmented and virtual) can create new bridges of connection and extended platforms for change, they also create new spaces for discrimination and discussions on human rights. Technological advances in artificial intelligence surveillance make data collection and leaks a threat in the metaverse, and given that this technology is used in our most private spaces, it’s pertinent to understand and monitor privacy rights and securities within platforms your organization chooses to utilize.
Mental health considerations, cyberbullying, and cyber assault—issues already present in “non-immersive” cyber platforms like social media—are an even higher and more substantial and traumatic issue within an avatar-based and all-encompassing environment. Outside of the headset, other questions are raised around the ethical connotations of ideas like purchasing virtual housing when so many are enduring real homelessness, the cost of even being able to “utilize” the metaverse in impoverished communities and families, the treatment of marginalized groups, and how racism, sexism, bias, and discrimination may be translated and implanted into the metaverse by its own creators.
Exploring the New Frontier
Nonprofit organizations have the opportunity to not only participate in but build the metaverse alongside thought leaders, tech innovators, and for-profit companies and organizations. Whether or not your organization will or should involve themselves is best decided by you. Not sure where to begin? Check out our Metaverse for Nonprofits 101 article that outlines three questions to help navigate metaverse conversations in your organization.