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Non-Profit Chimpanzee Sanctuary Raises Money, Expands Donors With NFT Sales
The paintings were done by chimpanzees from the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Fort Pierce and they were sold in high-resolution digital form as a novel way to tap the fundraising potential of the exploding non-fungible token, or NFT, trading.
9:49 10th May, 2022

The splashes and splattering of primary and secondary colors would make Jackson Pollock proud. But these artworks weren't done by human hands, and their sale last July wasn't handled by a gallery.

The non-profit, which is 100% private donor-funded, had prior success selling art on canvas painted by chimps during their "enrichment activities" at the sanctuary. So the option to sell the same type of art in digital form via the NFT route, on a platform called Truesy, was simply appealing.

"I always look to technology to find the newest thing that is going on," said Sara Halpert, Save the Chimps marketing director. "And NFTs were becoming very hot at the beginning of 2021."

In its first NFT foray, the sanctuary sold limited editions of four digital images, including ones by chimps Cheetah and Tootsie, for $25 each. It wasn't huge offering for a sanctuary in which each chimp's care costs $25,000 annually.

But the potential is there, Halpert said, and the ability to reach a different pool of donors is just as enticing as the dollars.

Save the Chimps finds NFT space can  also broaden donor ranks

The Save the Chimps sanctuary was established by the late Carole Noon for retired chimpanzees used by the U.S. military. Later, other chimps were given safe haven after being released by entertainment enterprises and research labs.

Today, some 221 chimps live quietly in the sanctuary's 150 acres, which are divided into 12 islands.

"It's a true sanctuary," Halpert said. "These chimpanzees have served their time to humanity and we let them live in peace in the sunshine."

By the middle of last year, coronavirus the pandemic social distancing and shutdowns had taken a financial toll on the 25-year-old chimpanzee sanctuary's fundraising efforts.

The non-profit's two major in-person fundraisers, one for members and the Chimpathon 5K and 10K race for the public, had been suspended in consecutive years.

Generous donations still came by way of the sanctuary's website, email and letter writing campaigns, Halpert said. But she still sought new ways to raise funds. What she found in the NFT space was not just donations, but new and younger benefactors.

"What's been really exciting about the crypto and NFT process is acquiring new donors," Halpert said. "I would say that about 90% of all our donations — if not higher — that have come through NFT or crypto have all been first-time donors, which is really exciting to see."

Another benefit is, recurring donations, because Save the Chimps will pocket a portion of the resale price if the owners sells one of the images.

Non-profit buys into NFTs, not so much crypto currency

The money spent on Save the Chimps' art was converted into U.S. dollars before they reached the non-profit's coffers, however.

Halpert said Save the Chimps is choosing not to hold crypto funds at the moment. One reason is that the digital monetary instruments have experienced fluctuations. The volatility, however, has benefited the sanctuary when upward swings in valuations have emboldened donors to make gifts, she noted.

But Halpert doesn't discount the possibility of creating a fund specifically for crypt currency donations in the future.

"It may well be one day we start a crypto trust," she said.

Right now, she said, the non-profit is learning about this new world of fundraising and networking in the communities that access it.

At the moment, she isn't even that certain about how the patrons who purchased the chimps' art actually use it or display it.

"People are still figuring that out and I am sure we will see some really creative ways coming out in the market on how to share these digital assets publicly," Halpert said.


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