Leading crypto trade association doubled membership, quadrupled funding in 2021

As 2021 is coming to a close, one of the largest players in the cryptocurrency lobby has seen a surge in membership and funding. 

The Blockchain Association, a 501(c)6 trade association for the crypto industry, has been a player in Washington, DC since its founding in 2018. But 2021 has seen record growth. 

Membership has risen from 28 firms to 65 since January 1. Meanwhile, the 2020 budget that was just shy of $2 million has gone up to nearly $8 million, according to executive director Kristin Smith and the association’s most recently filed 990 forms. 

Among the most recent members are Solana Labs, Republic, Dapper Labs, Tacen and Messari. 

While the beginning of the year saw a bull market for tokens, a flurry of action on Capitol Hill and around financial regulators this year heightened interest in politics across the board. 

Perhaps the highest-profile moment was a fight in the Senate over IRS reporting language that seemingly implicated node operators and miners. That fight corresponded to an industry-wide expansion of lobbying spending, which especially impacted the more prominent crypto trade associations

“We’ve nearly doubled since August with the infrastructure fight. I think that was an eye-opening moment for a lot of people in the industry,” said Smith. “It’s obviously awesome for the Blockchain Association, but also because it shows that the crypto industry is serious about engaging in Washington.”

The new roster of members also reflects a rise in market interest in NFTs and gaming. Smith notes that these newly prominent use cases have been helpful for conversations with regulators, because “it’s a lot easier for a policymaker to see an NFT and visualize what a digital collectible is than to visualize what a bitcoin is.”

The rise in members brings along with it challenges in coordination. Similarly, there have been a number of new trade associations, PACs, and other political organizations to emerge in D.C. in recent months. 

At the time, Smith told The Block’s Frank Chaparro: “We went from zero to 60 overnight, and we have caught the attention of the entire policy-making class in Washington.” 

As for funding, the Blockchain Association saw a major boost not necessarily from membership dues, but rather from a high-profile raise in November, which saw the Filecoin Foundation matching contributions. The new budget has enabled an expansion of the Blockchain Association’s roster.

“But really to be a mature trade association we need to be at about $20 to $30 million,” Smith said.

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