Frequently asked questions
What is involveMINT?
involveMINT is a nonprofit organization that manages a Pittsburgh-area Community Exchange Network, CEN for short. Area businesses, nonprofits, anchor organizations such as universities and individual community members participate in the CEN, using a community currency as the tool for exchanging goods and services. CEN partners trade using the local currency to help communities use their resources to address systemic challenges while keeping wealth local. Our CEN is hosted on a web application that helps organizations, businesses and individuals accept and exchange the currency. ExchangePartners identify new suppliers and customers while directly building local economies and strengthening the fabric of the community.
What is a community currency?
A community currency is a money that is used in a specific region or among members of a community with a common focus often to address a social challenge that the national currency and market economy insufficiently addresses. It’s not meant to replace national currency entirely, but rather complement it.
Community currencies have been around for centuries and historically have been used when there is a downturn in the economy when regular cash becomes scarcer (e.g., the COVID 19 pandemics; America’s Great Depression in the 1930s and Greece’s post-2008 economic uncertainty).
Even when the economy is strong, you can use community currencies to address pressing challenges such as food insecurity or consequences from environmental pollution, building local income and wealth, providing access to more resources for those in need or to provide capital to struggling businesses.
Why is a community currency good for your community?
The invention of “money” played a large role in the development of human civilization, allowing complex transactions to be made precisely and conveniently. In ways, information about the flow of money became just as important as the items being bought and sold. However, whether you’re using dollar bills or arcade tokens, most currencies have limited inherent value. Their real value comes from the resources they represent, and the exchanges they facilitate.
National currencies have a number of drawbacks. One of the most strongly felt drawbacks is the tendency for money to be sparing in its support of social good. Nonprofits are chronically underfunded and understaffed, so they often rely on help from volunteers. However volunteering has an economic cost, and not everyone has the financial security to afford paying for travel, missing work, eCC. National currencies operating for example within a capitalistic economic model tend to concentrate wealth to the detriment of the larger populace. The currency enables people in the community who want to make a difference but do not have the time and resources to do so, to become active stewards, because they can earn the local currency to pay for essential needs.
The incentives created by new currencies can encourage people to act in ways that are beneficial to communities, for ‘social purposes.’ (a “carrot” rather than a “stick”). Traditional methods to guide behavior focus on increasing taxation, regulation, and penalties (such as taxing unnecessary items like alcohol and cigarettes). By adopting a currency that rewards individuals with services and goods that contribute to positive wellbeing, NGOs and local governments can create change without the negative effect of increasing debt.
Adopting a local currency also encourages community members and businesses to exchange goods and services with each other, keeping business local, while expanding incomes. This acts as an economic stimulus because when businesses have more income, they spend more, create more jobs, and pay more people, who in turn support more local businesses, creating a virtuous cycle!
Community currency earned can also be donated to nonprofits and invested in local initiatives , which means you can directly support community development and improve health and well-being. Community currency investments are also not time limited; they are sustainable and not subject to the instability of government funding in times of economic downturns or changes in political leadership.
Perhaps most important, local currency usage is determined by local stakeholders and community members. You get to choose what the currency investment is targeting and what priority challenges it will address. The process of identifying these local challenges for investment is empowering for local stakeholders and citizens because they become less dependent on outside actors and federal and state resources to determine their financial condition, resulting in greater local resiliency and self-determination.
How do you start working with a community?
We are invited by community leaders who see involveMINT as an appropriate intervention for social change.
What challenges is your Community Exchange Network addressing?
What challenges is your Community Exchange Network addressing ?
involveMINT works with local citizens leaders to determine the focus of the community currency. For example, the currency could be used to reciprocate community stewards (called “ChangeMakers”) to improve the local environment, tackle gaps in food security or assist small minority-owned start-ups and businesses. Social currency investments in these areas provide new resources to facilitate the development of exchange networks among organizations, businesses and individuals, with all knowing that accepting the currency has contributed to making community improvements.
Each Community Exchange Partner (CEN) then uses the currency to meet their own needs. For families, it might be to buy locally grown healthy food; for nonprofits, to purchase badly needed supplies and for small businesses, to introduce a new product and service. By keeping the currency local, partners look first to how their neighbors can assist them by trading earned currency with neighbors for services such as child care and senior respite services. Businesses seek to use their currency by offering currency as wages which necessitates identifying local community members to hire as staff members. In turn, nonprofits seek ways that their traditional client base can serve as assets, paying them in currency to help meet the agency mission.
The Community Exchange Network matches needs with offers to trade, while providing access to resources in the community that were previously underutilized. Adopting the currency provides opportunity to finance new human capital to support nonprofits and interagency collaborative projects.
The web application efficiently tracks and streamlines currency usage, uses data to generate media and documents impact of ChangeMaker labor that is accessible in real-time.
Is involveMINT sponsoring a form of Cryptocurrency?
Not at this time. We’re a digital currency (as in, our transactions take place on a digital system rather than with physical bills) but not a cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrencies assume a trustless environment, and employ strong cryptography techniques to validate transactions. While our system is encrypted, much of the trust is built on the partnerships built through the tackling of a chronic community challenge.
Local currencies are focused on a specific community and/or geographic area, and have a consistent value typically equal to $1 USD. In other words, the Pittsburgh local currency is used for community betterment and to achieve social impact, not as an investment vehicle.
There are emerging cryptocurrencies that are not for-profit investment vehicles being adapted to manage and provide incentives for social good. involveMINT is exploring these opportunities.
Does involveMINT make money (USD) off the use and expansion of the local currency?
Short answer, no! As a nonprofit involveMINT needs to access some dollars from private or government sources to fund the infrastructure that supports the administration of the local currency, provide public education on local currencies, and sponsor partner events. We also are seeking ways to sustainably finance operations over time such as using the web application to track impact from voluntary contributions of corporate staff working on community projects. We also believe that UN Sustainable Development Goal data from Proof of Impact documentation will be valuable to investors, government stakeholders and businesses that will want to track the added value of their investments in improving communities. We also seek to identify funding in support of lower income residents who increase their tax liability due to earning credits.
Our vision is that as currency usage grows and becomes more widely accepted, that involveMINT staff and contractors will accept increasing payments of salary and wages in the community currencies, so that involveMINT as an entity becomes a critical exchange partner using the currency.
Is it legal?
Yes! involveMINT partners have been using credits since 2018. The Federal government sees local currencies like trade credits (“legal barter”) valued like US dollars.
Are exchanges taxable?
The IRS designates any income received by community currencies as taxable. ExchangePartners receiving CCs (CC) are responsible for self-reporting this income up to $8999.99 in total value. At $9000, involveMINT will report CCs earned on form 1099k to the IRS, which requires your EIN number. You will also receive a 1099K for the total amount of CCs you received during the fiscal year. The tax liability incurred from exchanges will be due in US dollars.
Can I donate my credits? Are the donations Tax deductible?
Yes, just like USD, any donated credits would be counted towards tax deductions as allowed by Federal statute.
Who can participate?
Most businesses, individuals and organizations can participate in the Community Exchange Network (CEN). Government entities can also participate by accepting CCs as payment for fees and taxes and can spend the currency for payment of goods and services.
Businesses and institutions with excess capacity and very low marginal costs, such as museums, cinema, classes are ideal for inclusion in the Community Exchange Network. With costs fixed, trading in excess capacity such as filling empty seats on an airplane or bowling lanes unused over the summer months makes sense because the marginal expense of additional customers has little impact on bottom lines.
Is involveMINT a legal entity, e.g. 501(c)?
We are currently not a stand-alone legal entity, but applying for 501(c) 3 status is within our 6 month timeframe. Right now, we are classified officially as a Project of New Sun Rising, a 501c3 organization.
We also have incorporated a Limited Liability Company called involveMINT Enterprises, LLC, however this is incorporated for legal purposes related to the Community Exchange Network web app, and is not in active use.
Is the community currency“ backed” by anything? What is the value of the currency?
Community currencies derive their value from the willingness of individuals, merchants, and clerks to participate in the acceptance and exchange of the currency for tangible resources. ExchangePartners are attracted to the idea that accepting the currency from ChangeMakers honors the contributions that community members have made to improve local communities. As the community exchange network membership expands, local businesses will have increasing opportunities to use the currency to meet their own needs.
There are no shortages of community members willing and able to work on community projects with the added benefit of receiving payment in the community currency. Businesses that have earned currency can use the currency to support contractors to help their business and for social enterprises contributing to community improvement, can readily recruit ChangeMakers to serve in a range of capacities to further their enterprise and improve their community. Because of the huge amount of underutilized or unutilized human capital and expertise available in communities with many earning low wages in the market economy, we believe that those members that have involveMINT managed community currency will have ample opportunities to spend the currency in completing tasks that can be filled by local residents.
Are there any other examples of complementary community currencies?
There are hundreds of examples of community currencies across the world, including right here in the US:
Hudson Valley Current (Kingston, NY)
Baltimore B-Note (Baltimore, MD)
Manitou Money (Manitou Springs, CO)
Wooden Money (Tenino, WA)
For a comprehensive list, please visit:
Can I exchange my credits for USD?
We do not support exchanging or cashing-in credits for USD. Community currencies are meant to be complementary to, and function to support local economies. Cashing-in for a national currency like the USD can often result in value and wealth leaving the community.
Who are your current participants?
Visit our website at involveMINT.io for a comprehensive list.
How do I sign up?
Easy! Simply sign up at app.involvemint.io! For additional questions about joining the network, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do I close or delete my account?
Please contact email@example.com if you would like to be removed from the network.