Chicago-area children’s museum first in nation to accept cryptocurrency donations

“With the pandemic and being closed for so long we were looking at different revenue streams and asking ‘How else can we raise dollars?’” said Adam Woodworth, executive director of The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn.

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The exterior of The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn

The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn

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A children’s museum in the southwest suburbs has become the first in the nation to accept donations in the form of cryptocurrency. 

The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn began accepting cryptocurrency late last month, and after blasting the news out on social media has accepted a single donation: an anonymous gift of $35 worth of Bitcoin.

“With the pandemic and being closed for so long we were looking at different revenue streams and asking ‘How else can we raise dollars?’” Executive Director Adam Woodworth said.

“And I know a couple of people who are in crypto and I just asked the question: ‘Have you guys ever heard of nonprofits accepting bitcoin as donation?’ And one said ‘no’ and one said ‘yes.’” 

Woodworth searched online to see if other nonprofits were doing it and found a Salvation Army chapter in California. It used a service to accept the cryptocurrency and immediately change it into dollars at the current rate and transfer the money into the nonprofit’s accounts with a 4% administrative fee.

Woodworth enlisted the same service.

Laura Huerta Migus, executive director of the Association of Children’s Museums, an international group that counts about 290 museums in the United States as members, said the Oak Lawn museum is a trailblazer.

“We checked around and it’s the first children’s museum that we know of that’s doing this,” Huerta Migas said.

“It’s very exciting,” said Huerta Migas, who expects other children’s museums to use Woodworth’s plan as a blueprint. “This is part of moving into the future.”

Donations can be made by going to the museum’s website, www.cmoaklawn.org.

The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn wasn’t sure it would survive during the heart of the pandemic in 2020.

It’s now fully reopened — with a mask requirement for everyone — and in the past three weeks is back to hosting the same amount of visitors it did before the pandemic.

“When we first reopened in January we had parents come here, mostly with 1- to 2-year-olds, and they were like ‘This is his first time being out ever, first time ever playing with other kids’ and that was profound for us,” Woodworth said.

“As a result of that we started ‘Wee Ones Wednesdays’ where every Wednesday from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. we’re open to children three and under strictly,” he said.

The museum is bringing back staff it laid off during the pandemic, and its coffers are no longer on precarious footing.

“We’re doing alright. We’re seeing things turn around now,” Woodworth said. 

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