I could never afford to give to charity. At least that’s what I told myself. I saved, went on holidays and lived at the pub without thinking twice. But I did not donate to charity. I couldn’t afford that. Out of sight, out of mind — right? The closest I came was the occasional workplace collection for cancer. But this was a social duty. Who wants to look cheap and unsupportive in front of the very people you see everyday? I often thought,“Where is this money actually going?”
What if there was a way to choose where your donations went — a more effective way, a way to be in control of making a difference? What a wild idea. Turns out you can, if you’re provided with the right tools, at the right time.
2 years ago, I listened to a podcast that featured the Scottish philosopher William Macaskill talking about Effective Altruism. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about charity in the slightest. But the podcast made me reconsider what was really holding me back from donating more than the bare minimum to charity.
It turns out that I had no real objections to giving to charity. And I obviously wasn’t some heartless monster that didn’t care about others less fortunate than myself. But I was concerned about ensuring that my money went where it would make the most difference. Let’s call it “bang for buck.” And I had never been sure how I could go about confirming that my donation would be spent effectively. And this fear of waste is really what kept me from donating.
Reason 1 — Effective altruism works.
It’s easy to get disillusioned with where your money is going and its impact. But, when I feel this way, I do my best to resist what I now see as confirmation bias that keeps me from not giving. I know that, while all charities are not equal, effective altruism works. And I also now have the resources to find the most effective charities. Out of sight, out of mind isn’t an option for me anymore. The only barrier to information is my willingness.
Reason 2 – My day-to-day life isn’t any different.
Donating more money may require minor changes to your lifestyle. For me, it was simply avoiding one or two spontaneous spending splurges a month.
But I’ve found that if I donate 3% of my monthly paycheck, I don’t notice a difference in my day-to-day life. And an insignificant sum for me might buy a family a tin roof that will protect them for 10 years. Donating doesn’t take up much time either. I research a cause I want to support, set up a direct debit and review my donations once every six months. With direct deposit, I don’t even have to think about donating regularly. It just happens.
Reason 3 — Giving feels great.
There’s a joy to giving that you can’t get elsewhere. I get more satisfaction from giving to others than I could ever from buying another thing for myself. And a side benefit of donating has been the realisation that I don’t need as much as I think. I have learned to be happier with what I have, not with what I want.
It doesn’t hurt that giving feels right, almost noble. Who do you admire more, a nurse or a salesperson? (I say this working much closer to sales than nursing!) We don’t all have noble professions, but we all can use our money to save lives. That’s pretty cool. And, in a time when we are increasingly conscious of how we are spending our time, becoming a more effective giver should be on the list. Not least when the result is SAVING LIVES. (Have I mentioned how cool that is?)
Everyone Is Great and Worth Helping
We fall into the trap of believing that our place in the world has come about as a result of our clever decisions. This often overlooks the ovarian lottery of where we were born. The Nobel prize winning social scientist Herbert Simon estimates around 90% of what people earn is based upon their social capital — the places, networks, and opportunities that make up their present circumstances. Without stable institutions like efficient banks, a reliable police force, functioning schools and fair criminal justice systems, it is very difficult to compete on a global scale.
“I personally think that society is responsible for a very significant percentage of what I’ve earned. If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you find out how much this talent is going to produce in the wrong kind of soil.” – Warren Buffett
Donate a portion of your monthly income to a worthy cause. Pay your good fortune forward. Don’t know where to donate? Have a look here. Your life will go on as normal and the lives of others will be better as a result.