Hedera recently hosted an NFT charity auction using the Hedera Token Service (HTS), demonstrating its unique offering as a sustainable marketplace for tokenized assets. As part of this initiative, eight items consisting of fully digital NFTs and physical items with an NFT on the HTS, were auctioned on the platform, utilizing the guaranteed fair ordering system of the Hedera network.
The proceeds raised over the two auctions, one by Hedera and another organized by the community, amounted to a total 488,766 HBAR (worth $250,000 USD at the time of the auction) and were donated in full to the Hays Caldwell Women's Center in Dallas, to help fund its new project aimed at providing affordable, safe housing for women fleeing abusive homes.
Zenobia Godschalk, SVP of Communications at Hedera, sat down with Holly Cunningham-Kizer, Director of Community Partnerships at HCWC, to discuss how this donation came to be and what this means for the organization.
Zenobia Godschalk: Can you tell us a little bit about the Hays-Caldwell Women's Center and your mission?
Holly Cunningham-Kizer: Of course. The Hayes-Caldwell Women's Center was founded in 1978 and initially started out as a group of professional women who wanted to find a space to come together and just talk about women's issues. Almost immediately they were contacted by people who needed help escaping domestic violence, and soon realized that this was a huge problem in their community. There were no other organizations available to offer support to women on these issues at the time, so the group got together and became one of the first of 10 domestic violence centers in the state of Texas that were funded by the state. A few years later we received state funding for our sexual assault program. We were one of the original six organizations offering that support and have continued to do so for the last 43 years.
Zenobia Godschalk: How important are services such as those offered at Hays-Caldwell Women's Center?
Holly Cunningham-Kizer: Incredibly important. We like to think that we are at the forefront of this movement. Obviously, in the last few years, there's been a sort of reckoning when it comes to interpersonal violence. Our agency aims to counteract this, by providing services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. We are what's known as an ‘umbrella agency’ in that we co-locate all those services and programs under one campus.
Zenobia Godschalk: How have these services evolved over the last few years?
Holly Cunningham-Kizer: Well, the reality is that one-in-three women will experience domestic or sexual violence in their lifetime, and so will one-in-six men. These were issues that everyone was experiencing, but no one was talking about. Thankfully, we have seen the public become more vocal about issues of abuse in recent years, but this differs from the hushed approach to those problems HCWC would have seen when it first opened. With that in mind, our mission was, and is, always to create an environment where violence and abuse are no longer tolerated in the communities that we serve. We do that through providing crisis intervention, professional counseling prevention, education out community outreach and awareness.
Zenobia Godschalk: When you were first approached by Hedera, what did you think?
Holly Cunningham-Kizer: To be completely transparent, our initial thought was, ‘Is this for real?’. We have had absolutely no experience when it comes to accepting cryptocurrency. This was completely new territory for us, but we started doing research. It just so happened that the day the initial call came in, one of the members of our finance committee was on site. She was a retired accountant from the executive team at Exxon and so is much more up to date on these things than the rest of us. She immediately began researching, and so we reached out to our auditor to make sure that we knew how to accept it.
Zenobia Godschalk: This was your first deep dive into crypto, so how did you find the process of accepting the funds?
Holly Cunningham-Kizer: We thought it would be difficult, but we had such a great relationship with Hedera, that it made it quite simple. Hedera helped us step by step, explaining the process and getting us set up to accept the donation. In the end, the donations of HBAR ended up being worth exactly $253,764.21 in USD. That is a quarter of a million-dollar donation. It's amazing!
Zenobia Godschalk: That is amazing. What is that as a percentage of your annual budget and
Holly Cunningham-Kizer: Our annual budget is typically around $4million USD, so this was about 6%, which is very big.
Zenobia Godschalk: How do you expect to use the funds?
Holly Cunningham-Kizer: These funds will go toward finishing a construction project we’ve been working on for about six years. We are building an 18 unit transitional housing complex right here on our campus, which will provide affordable, safe housing for families fleeing an abusive home. It's ideally set for survivors of domestic violence in their young children, which will also be an early head start on site. We have raised the funds for the project ourselves. It started out with early estimates from our contractors and the architect was right around $3 million USD. Of course, inflation being what it is and with construction costs going up, it took us longer to raise the money. It ended up being about a $5 million USD project, and is now almost complete. So, getting the HBAR donation at this time, just as that project is wrapping up and we are about to start housing families, is amazing.
Zenobia Godschalk: Awesome. As you look forward, do you think that you will incorporate crypto as a part of your ongoing fundraising efforts and messaging?
Holly Cunningham-Kizer: Oh, absolutely. This has opened up an entirely new frontier for us. My team, which handles all our social media, marketing outreach and fundraising is already working on this, now that we are set up. We are very open to taking cryptocurrency in the future. This is, and I think that going forward it will be, the norm in the coming years. It's exciting to say that we were on the forefront of that, that we were almost pioneers when it comes to nonprofits. I know we're not the only ones taking it, but we are definitely the first in our area.
Zenobia Godschalk: Yes I think you are. What advice would you give to other charities that want to explore crypto donations?
Holly Cunningham-Kizer: Definitely to utilize the existing relationships that you have, ask as many questions as you can. Even if you think that they are stupid questions, ask them anyway. We heavily relied on our finance committee and our auditors to help us. Then our finance team and our technology resource coordinator here also all worked together to do research and figure out how we could make it work. I think that being cautious is also important to keep in mind, particularly with new exchanges such as this. You should vet everything very carefully, just as I know that Hedera vetted us very carefully utilizing things like charity navigator and GuideStar to look at our background. That's the sort of thing that can help you find out the information about someone that wants to make this sort of donation to you.
Zenobia Godschalk: Absolutely! Is there anything else that you would like to convey?
Holly Cunningham-Kizer: Well, I do just want to say how incredibly grateful we are that we were given this opportunity. Everyone we've worked with has been spectacular. The community is so giving and kind, and we really are so thankful that we were able to benefit from that. These funds will definitely benefit the clients that we serve and the families that we work with.