What happened to the Lifeboat Foundation’s Bitcoin Endowment Fund?

What happened to the Lifeboat Foundation's 'world-first' Bitcoin endowment fund?

Bitcoin-loving nonprofit The Lifeboat Foundation (LBF) says it’s “helping humanity survive existential risks” as we approach the Singularity — but it appears on track for its own crisis: the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

LBF emerged in 2002 through current president Eric Klien. According to LBF, Klien amassed his fortune trading stocks in the 1990s and by cashing out a Match.com stake in the 2000s. 

Klien currently resides in Nevada, where LBF is headquartered.

The Lifeboat Foundation says it has some of the “best minds on the planet” to enable our survival.

One has to fall down numerous precarious rabbit holes to ever wind up on LBF’s homepage.

But once there, you’ll find a heady mix of cryonics supporters, life extension advocates, libertarians, scientists, and blockchainers dotting LBF’s long list of advisors. 

Named figures include the deceased child trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, Cardano founder Charles Hoskinson, Tether founder J.R. Willett, and other prominent technologists. 

Indeed, many of LBF’s top donors are renowned and well-known industry leaders, although most joined years ago.

The Lifeboat Foundation has been “recruiting Bitcoin talent from around the planet.”

LBF’s disclosed number one fiat donor is even an early Bitcoin adopter with an interest in sea-steading named Brian Cartmell.

Noted reasons for donating range from earnest to just weird. “I want to help… secure [a] future in which people… have opportunities for fulfilling productive lives,” said one.

Another gave a foreboding quote: “A self-replicating pathogen, whether biological or nanotechnology based, could destroy our civilization in a matter of days or weeks.” 

The latter was written 15 years ago.

Give LBF your Bitcoin to save humanity

LBF says it wants to help preserve humanity by raising funds for projects it deems worthy.

The org’s intentions may be great, but the website itself resembles an L. Ron Hubbard book cover meets Heaven’s Gate video — incredibly mid-90’s aesthetic but with an eager and sad desperation.

Ultimately, all that seems to have paid off. In Bitcoin’s formative years, LBF launched what it called the “world’s first Bitcoin Endowment Fund.” 

This is a current screenshot of the Lifeboat Foundation's website.
The Lifeboat Foundation’s website has a certain vibe about it.

LBF discloses the cryptocurrency kept in the endowment fund on its website.

The fund has accepted a raft of shitcoins over the years, including long-gone projects like CryptogenicBullion and Noblecoin.

LBF says it has raised $16 million worth of crypto. Most of the fund is Bitcoin purportedly kept in 13 different addresses across five wallets (546.9 BTC in total), but also 190 ETH ($480,000).

This is the Lifeboat Foundation's Bitcoin Endowment Fund disclosure.

There’s hardly any BTC left

Protos analyzed LBF’s 13 Bitcoin addresses and found vastly different figures than those listed on LBF’s website.

LBF’s addresses have in total received 1,172.74 BTC ($43.9 million). Only 31.21 BTC ($1.17 million) remains.

  • At rough times of deposit, the Bitcoin was together valued at $1.9 million.
  • Using Bitcoin’s price around the time of withdrawal, LBF has taken out $2.89 million.
  • Most of the Bitcoin was tracked to crypto mixers and exchanges.

LBF projected lofty — but vague — goals for that Bitcoin endowment, and had previously mentioned it would crowdsource ideas for how to appropriately spend the crypto in the future.

Instead, the Bitcoin appears to have only been used for two purposes: buying crypto mining equipment and “diversifying the endowment fund” by trading it.

[Read more: A critic’s guide to BitClout, this cycle’s most hated Bitcoin project]

So, it could be that most of the Bitcoin is still on exchanges, ready to convert into fiat for humanity.

But checking LBF’s 501(c)3 status — which certifies it as tax-exempt — shows LBF struggling to preserve its ability to accept deductible donations.

Turns out, LBF failed to file the appropriate docs with the IRS for three consecutive years.

So, the IRS automatically revoked its tax-exempt status last year.

This is the Lifeboat Foundation's tax exempt status form.
The Lifeboat Foundation lost its tax-exempt status in May 2020.

That automatic revocation happened over a year ago but LBF continues to compel donors. 

In fact, LBF never stopped soliciting with a declaration of 501(c)3 status (archived) — though they did remove a 2018 Seal of Transparency awarded by non-profit reporting unit GuideStar.

Implications for donors

Dozens of tax-exempt organizations have their status revoked monthly — but most were shuttered for good.

The Lifeboat Foundation continues to have a presence on Twitter and makes frequent updates to their site

Still, there’s at least a couple ways that a charity can deal with the situation LBF finds itself in.

They can apply to be reinstated as a 501(c)3 and pay any fines or penalties that may arise. Or, the IRS will choose to tax all the donations as income and refuse reinstatement.

[Read more: FBI ties and Ponzi games — here’s what SafeMoon doesn’t want you to know]

However, this scenario fails to account for donors, who were promised tax writeoffs and will instead receive nothing. 

What LBF donors choose to do in-lieu of of those deductions remains to be seen.

The IRS reserves the right to rule on which years will no longer be deductible at any point, so the auto-revocation could (hypothetically) affect donors going back to 2017.

In the midst of this, Lifeboat is looking for an “HQ Supervisor” whose tasks include “keeping [the] HQ clean.” 

Protos has reached out to LBF for comment.

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