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Vests4Ukraine - A Gitcoin Grants Case Study

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Lydia Baikalova, a Ukrainian based in Los Angeles, started a non-profit called Vests4Ukraine.com to supply protective gear to Ukrainian volunteers after the Russian invasion in February 2022. Facing a shortage of bulletproof vests and helmets, Baikalova initially used her family funds to send gear to Ukraine. The effort expanded with the help of a Gitcoin Grants campaign, which raised significant funds through cryptocurrency donations, demonstrating the potential of blockchain for humanitarian aid.

"Hello. Can you help me get a vest for my son? He’s a territorial defense volunteer stationed near Bucha." This was just one of the many similar messages Lydia Baikalova received every day after she shared a short story on social media, asking people to help her acquire vests for her friends in Ukraine. In early March of 2022, shortly after the start of a full-scale invasion by Russia, armored vests in Ukraine were considered a luxury. Even now, a high-quality vest with lightweight ceramic plates, lighter than steel ones, remains a luxury item.

Vests4Ukraine - A Lifeline in Luggage

The war came as a shock to many. Most Ukrainians living abroad were looking for ways to help those back home. Lydia Baikalova was born in Kyiv and spent most of her life in Ukraine. It was particularly devastating for her family to discover that their old neighborhood had been reduced to rubble after this conflict started. Now based out of Los Angeles, they also realized that their friends and family back home needed assistance, especially when two of her friends reached out, seeking information on where to obtain armored vests. Approximately 100,000 volunteers were defending alongside Ukraine's army. However, they did not have the necessary equipment to protect themselves. Between personal savings and donations from friends and family, Lydia bought armored vests from every store around Los Angeles she could find and put together her first shipment to Ukraine. When Lydia traveled to Poland, she successfully reached her destination, but unfortunately, her luggage did not. It took three days to determine the cause of the issue - border services retained her luggage. Lydia had to seek assistance from friends in Chicago to retrieve her luggage, and then her volunteer friends helped her transport it gradually. Extracting and delivering the gear proved to be a significant learning experience. 

The funds ran out fast, but the demand for vests was only growing. Then, Lydia received a message from David Mihal, an old friend, suggesting a way to raise funds through crypto. One of the messages said, "There's a site called Gitcoin, which is like a GoFundMe for crypto and offers fund matching. If you're comfortable with it, I can make a grant for your work. They're starting a 'support for Ukraine' initiative on Wednesday." Just as Lydia was flying to Poland (since direct flights to Ukraine were not possible at the time) with 16 suitcases filled with gear, the Gitcoin campaign was launched. 

Crypto for a Cause - The Making of Gitcoin Round 13 (GR13)

Launched in 2019, communities can use Gitcoin to fund what matters to them in ways that are not only more effective but also aligned with their values. Shortly after the invasion began, the web3 community was mobilized to leverage our combined social reach to assist people on the ground. Partnerships were formed with The Giving Block and Endaoment to establish grantees and initiate a matching pool. The matching pool grew to $700k in commitments from incredible organizations, including OCELOT Labs, ENS, Nouns DAO, Filecoin Foundation, Mochi, Mask Network, Boba Network & other generous anonymous donors. 

Empowering Communities to Fund and Build What Matters

On Lydia's behalf, David created a grant in GR13, allowing the community to support Ukrainians directly. Gitcoin utilizes quadratic funding, a crowdfunding mechanism that aims to allocate funds democratically. Quadratic Funding (QF) encourages community members to make donations of any size, which act as votes to determine the allocation of funds. QF pools together small donations from many people and matches them with a larger amount of funding from a central fund. For more information on Quadratic Funding, you can visit wtfisqf.com.

“Including the matching, we’re over $1000!” David texted Lydia with welcome news just after she returned from Poland about a week later with even more requests for vests. Over the next few days, the texts read, “We’re over 10K! Next goal is $15!”, “$22K! One day left to go!”. “Went to sleep for a few hours… Woke up to this,” with a screenshot that put the campaign over sixty thousand dollars. 

By the end of the round, the grant for Protective Equipment for Ukrainians received contributions from 138 donors, totaling approximately $64K after matching. Out of the total $122K raised by Vests4Ukraine and partner non-profits in the first half of 2022, the highest contribution came from Gitcoin Grants. 

The entire amount was allocated solely for purchasing the gear and covering transportation expenses, with no deductions for administrative costs. The war in Ukraine is still ongoing, and there is still a great need for volunteer support. Lydia has recently received a request for 100 tourniquets and 50 thermal blankets, which will cost approximately $4,000. If you would like to support Lydia's cause, please consider donating www.Vests4Ukraine.com.

Capital allocation for the community by the community

Cryptocurrency holds significant potential for donations due to its worldwide reach and ease of access. The funds raised in Gitcoin Round 13 for humanitarian aid demonstrated the platform's capacity to mobilize resources in real-world crises. This endeavor is a prime example of how cryptocurrency and blockchain technology can contribute to global humanitarian efforts, aligning with the crypto community's overarching objective to positively impact the tangible world.

By leveraging the advantages of programmable money, smart contracts, and decentralized governance, Gitcoin demonstrates how capital allocation can be made more accessible, precise, and scalable. Gitcoin has now transitioned from a centralized platform to a modular ecosystem, enabling various new capital allocation strategies, such as Conviction Voting and Streaming Quadratic Funding, with the potential to introduce even more innovative models for capital allocation. Grants Stack facilitates the creation and management of grant rounds, empowering anyone, irrespective of their affiliation with Gitcoin, to initiate and operate them anytime, ensuring a decentralized and community-driven approach. To learn more about how Gitcoin 2.0 enables communities to achieve democratic, efficient, and transparent capital allocation, dive into our whitepaper.

Use Gitcoin Grants Stack to run your own funding program

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