At its annual “Business Breakfast of Champions” event, Metropolitan Ministries became one of the first Tampa Bay nonprofits to raise charitable dollars via a drop of Nonfungible Tokens (NFTs), raising $32,000 to fight hunger.
“Metropolitan Ministries prides itself on marrying compassion and innovation in the service of more than 72,000 homeless and at-risk families each year,” said President and CEO Tim Marks. “As Tampa Bay emerges as a hub for technical innovation, we want to keep pace with our community by accepting donations in cryptocurrency and by acknowledging donors with cutting-edge technology like NFTs.”
An NFT is a unique identifier that represents proof of ownership of an asset. NFTs are stored permanently on a blockchain and can be associated with everything from a work of art to fractional ownership of a beach house.
Six donors made the winning bids on the opportunity to help Metropolitan Ministries provide meals to the community and receive commemorative NFTs: Tready Smith bid $15,000 for the first ever NFT offered by the organization, and Cate Colgan, Sheryl Hunter, Laura Sherman, Rosa Shores and Gary Tillet followed on from $3,000 to $5,000 for the remaining 5 NFTs in the collection.
The NFT drop was organized and executed on their behalf by Metacity, which plans to offer NFT minting to the community on its forthcoming platform.
Metacity will authenticate each transaction and commemorate them via an NFT in the form of a photograph of each donor in front of the meal kits their donations make possible.
Prior to the NFT auction, the more than 300 business and nonprofit leaders assembled in Metropolitan Ministries’ Holiday Distribution Tent heard from a panel of experts that shared blockchain concepts and observations about how decentralization will transform business, the internet and culture.
The program featured Rosa Shores, co-founder of BlockSpaces, Michael O’Rourke, co-founder and CEO of Pocket Network, and Miles Harrell, COO of Stratos Technology. Metacity’s Joe Hamilton (publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst) moderated the conversation.
Shores summed up blockchain technology as the latest evolution of the database. “Blockchain is a ledger that’s visible, permanent and validated,” she said. She explained that NFTs represent a record of ownership, backed by the blockchain. This innovation eliminates the need for many third-party functions provided by banks and governments, keeping the exchange of value directly between the parties to the transaction.
“Blockchain also enables the consumer to trace the origins of a product and to determine whether a brand is ethically sourced, for example. Or enable a farmer to connect directly with residents who live in a food desert,” Shores said.
“Blockchain adds guardrails to the internet, creating relationships that are reliable and stable,” Hamilton observed. He added that “cryptocurrency” is an unfortunate nomenclature. “It’s not a currency, it’s more like buying shares in a company or a project. It allows anyone to invest in a startup and stay liquid. Traditionally an investor would have to await a buyout or exit to recapture their value.”
Miles Harrell encouraged the audience to take the plunge and invest in blockchain technologies and cryptocurrency. “You’re not too late,” he said. “It’s still an emerging sector and Web 3 is still being built.”
Web3 is defined by industry leaders as the next, more decentralized, democratic internet, enabled by blockchain to be free from the dominant influence of a few major tech firms and large institutions.
The Metropolitan Ministries event also featured remarks from board member Gerry Coughlin, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, and Dustin Portillo, a spokesperson for the event’s presenting sponsor, Casper Cares.
Claudia Ganns, associate vice president of care management services at Metropolitan Ministries, closed the program with a moving story of her journey from single mother and Metropolitan Ministries’ food pantry client to degree-holding social services professional who is now employed by the organization.
“We are committed to serving every client with the kind of dignity and compassion that I experienced here myself in a time of need,” she said.