I finally started to give to charitable organization on a regular basis. I couldn’t find the motivation before because I found it hard to convince myself that the little I could give would make a difference.
Everything changed when I found giving what you can. They have figured out a way to tackle world poverty and hunger in a systematic way. If everyone give 10% of their income to charity, world hunger would be a thing of the past.
10% of everyones income is well over 2 trillion dollars every year. Ending world hunger is estimated to cost between 250-300 billion dollars a year by the world bank. So there would still a lot left to spend on many other programs.
But wait, haven’t you read somewhere that the USA alone gave 500 Billions dollars in charity last year? Yes, that is true. But 500 Billions > 250-300 Billions needed to end world hunger. Why isn’t solved yet? Because money is not well spent.
Giving money to homeless on the street might feel good right away, but it is certainly not the most effective way you could have gave your money. That same amount every year could have gone to an organization that directly feed poor people in your neighborhood.
Effective altruism and the Give Well foundation invest only in program that will have the most impact by dollars spent. It cost around $50 000 to train a blind dog. That’s a lot of money. The Give Well foundation estimated that currently, they can save a life for around $3,400. A blind dog equal 14 lives saved. If every life are worth the same, then it is much more cost effective to invest in saving 14 lives than buying a blind dog.
GiveWell history is interesting. Before founding GiveWell, Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld wanted to raise money and give it to charities. So they called charities and asked them some basic questions like how well the village they helped were doing 5 years after receiving donations or how much money was directly spend on the ground vs on management. No one they called had any answer. They said that no one in their organization was collecting any data.
So that is why they created Give Well and now they find and select charities based on data. Mainly money spend/life saved and pick the charities that do the most long term good. Those organization selected change over time has new data comes in.
If everyone gave 10% of their salary, world hungered and dying for lack of access to clean water or vaccine would be a thing of the past. If you think you can live without 10% of your salary and you are looking for something concrete to do to help, you should consider taking the Giving What We Can pledge. The meaning of life is not always clear but at least, you’ll be able to take comfort in knowing that you are saving lives.