Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Michael McLean of The Giving Block Is Helping To Change Our World

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Trust your process and pay attention to the signs. Every rejection is an off ramp blocked to keep you on your path.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike McLean.

Mike McLean is the Head of The Giving Block Institutional, a premium service dedicated to meeting the unique needs of institutional organizations with fully customizable solutions that empower them to deliver a best-in-class cryptocurrency donation experience. Prior to joining The Giving Block, Mike spent seven years as Director of Investment Operations and Program Management at Fidelity Charitable, and served various operations and product roles at Putnam Investments and Sterling Capital Management.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After graduating from college, I took a job in traditional financial services where I continued to work until 2015. I wanted to make a change to a role with more impact than just bottom line revenue which is why I landed at Fidelity Charitable, helping to build and manage investment programs for donor advised funds. Through that role, I had the opportunity to launch their first ever cryptocurrency offering. By 2022, I realized I could utilize my unique knowledge base and skillset to help a broader audience of philanthropic organizations better understand and engage with cryptocurrency, so I came to work at The Giving Block to launch their Institutional offering focused on larger, more complex nonprofit organizations.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My first year at Putnam Investments was spent in a room pricing the mutual funds every day, where we had a TV on CNBC and a few Bloomberg terminals so that we had access to all the information one might need on any given day. The Head of Enterprise Service’s office was next to this room. He would walk by every afternoon and just say hello. One day he walked in and introduced himself to me and asked me “how are the markets doing today?” I responded with something like “ummm, I think they’re doing pretty good,” however on this particular day the markets were down significantly and it was a really bad day for all markets. He grinned and simply said, “you should watch that tv behind you. It doesn’t appear to be a very good day.” I was quite embarrassed but two lessons were learned — first, sometimes “I don’t know” is an appropriate response and second, know what’s happening in your industry at all times.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

The Giving Block is changing the way people look at donating to their favorite charities. At the forefront of an entirely new sector called Crypto Philanthropy, The Giving Block is providing the leading solution for nonprofits to accept crypto, opening new revenue streams for charitable organizations while reducing the crypto tax burden for donors.

On track to process over $1B in crypto donations in the next 12 months, The Giving Block’s Crypto Philanthropy programs are now the fastest growing revenue channel for hundreds of nonprofits including United Way Worldwide, Save the Children and The American Cancer Society, making them perhaps the most disruptive force in charitable giving today.

I am the head of The Giving Block’s news initiative, The Giving Block Institutional, which was created to meet the unique needs of institutional clients with fully-customizable solutions that empower them to deliver best-in-class cryptocurrency experiences.

I have had many conversations with institutions who were finding it challenging to accept crypto donations, largely in part to increased regulatory considerations when accepting and reporting on charitable contributions. Many institutions require a custom solution or specialized knowledge that wasn’t previously readily available. The Giving Block Institutional’s services will include bespoke solutions for large or special handling transactions, API integration with existing contribution workflows, and consultative engagements to help client-facing advisors with crypto conversations and planning sessions. This allows institutions to confidently accept Crypto donations and know that their unique needs are met.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

The Giving Block Institutional is still in the early stages, and we’re eager to see how our services will continue to help institutions raise cryptocurrency and set them up for success. The Giving Block as a whole, though, has worked with over 1,000 charities, raising over a hundred million dollars in cryptocurrency to date. Most recently, The Giving Block has worked diligently to help raise money for our Ukraine Emergency Response Fund, which has resulted in emergency medical care and supplies, food and water for those in need, services for those taking refuge abroad and resources for journalists covering the Humanitarian Crisis in Ukraine.

Are there things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

We are looking to normalize cryptocurrency as a valuable means for good. The Giving Block has helped raise millions of dollars for some of the world’s most recognizable charities, including Susan G. Komen, The American Cancer Society and St. Judes Children’s Hospital, and we’d like to continue to showcase that there are so many positives to crypto sector.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is creating a motivating and inspiring environment for everyone in an organization to work together selflessly toward achieving a common goal.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Pay attention when more experienced people are giving you feedback, guidance or advice — and don’t take criticism as a personal attack.
  2. Don’t make money the only variable. Focus on experiences and relationships. Money will find its way into your life.
  3. Take chances early and often. Don’t let fear inhibit growth
  4. Trust your process and pay attention to the signs. Every rejection is an off ramp blocked to keep you on your path.
  5. Surround yourself with like minded people who can offer support and guidance. Avoid detractors.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would push for methodology for greater charitable transparency. Some do a great job with sharing stories of how donor funds are put to use, inspiring other donors to participate. It would be great to have a tool where Non-profits could aggregate their stories of charitable gifts directly impacting their cause.

It’s something that a lot of us are lacking, but that I think could provide the most benefits and fulfillment to our lives.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never stop being a good person because of bad people.”

I interpret this as not just bad actors or morally abject people but also people who can fill your life with negativity and try to keep you from fulfilling your best self. They are out there and if you let them influence your decision making, you will never be able to be truly happy.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I think a lunch with Elon Musk would be incredibly fascinating. As a leader, he runs several successful international companies, he’s constantly innovating to change the world and he’s a selfless leader with a pragmatic approach to philanthropy.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on LinkedIn here, as well as follow The Giving Block on Twitter (@TheGivingBlock) to keep up with all of the excitement surrounding The Giving Block Institutional.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Michael McLean of The Giving Block Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.