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United Way to begin accepting donations in Bitcoin

The United Way is hoping that accepting Bitcoin will help support its mission. (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)

United Way Worldwide announced Monday that it will begin taking donations in Bitcoin, the digital currency.

Bitcoin users can now use the currency for donations to the United Way's Innovation Fund, a part of the United  Way dedicated to updating the organization through "technology, relationships and efficiency." Coinbase, one of the leading Bitcoin payment platforms, is partnering with the charity to let those interested donate directly from their digital Bitcoin wallets to the fund. According to a page on the United Way's Web site, anyone from around the world can donate to the fund using Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is making steady progress in gaining more mainstream acceptance, with companies ranging from Home Depot and Target to local food trucks jumping on board. eBay's PayPal announced last week that it will soon be offering developers of its Braintree payment platform the option to accept Bitcoin as a method of payment, also through a partnership with Coinbase. But major charities such as the Red Cross, UNICEF and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital have been slower to jump on the bandwagon, though many Bitcoin users have run their own campaigns to take donations for these organizations and convert them into more traditional currencies.

Brian A. Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide, said in a statement that accepting Bitcoin simply makes it easier to support the 127-year-old organization.  "Achieving United Way’s vision for the world – where all individuals and families achieve their human potential – requires innovation powered by new technology and outreach methods," he said. "In that spirit, integrating Bitcoin donations with the United Way Worldwide Innovation Fund helps us achieve this crucial goal."