This is a question I’m asked not-infrequently! While I can’t make a recommendation for what is best for you and your family, I can tell you what my own charitable donation process is.
First of all, I believe that being an affluent person in a stable and prosperous corner of human society gives me an obligation to pay a sizable portion of my income to help others who aren’t so fortune.
To determine how much
I should donate, I visit The Life You Can Save’s online charity giving calculator
, which gives me what a calculation of what I should donate based on my yearly income. Since the website and calculator were created by Peter Singer, a philosopher who’s thought more deeply than anyone else alive on the subject of our charitable obligations to each other, I feel comfortable using his math as a benchmark.
To determine where
I should donate, I use a number of resources. First, I use GiveWell
and The Life You Can Save’s lists of which charities do the most good per dollar. This usually means giving to The Against Malaria Foundation
; they give low-cost bed-nets to people in malaria-prone areas, and they estimate they save a life for every $3000-5000 donated. That’s pretty dang effective! I’m also a big fan of GiveDirectly
, which gives cash transfers directly to some of the poorest people in the world, allowing them to improve their lives however they see fit. (As we advocated in our very first episode, Adam Ruins Giving!)
However, I believe it’d be a mistake to rely on numbers alone; I’m as concerned about anyone else with improving the political situation and inequality in the United States. For that reason, I also dedicate money to expanding voting rights in America, and to supporting the work of criminal justice reformers.
Finally, as a resident of Los Angeles, I’m daily devastated by the homelessness crisis in my home city. As a citizen of LA, I feel a responsibility to help alleviate it. For that reason, I donate to HousingWorks CA
. You might remember them as the organization we highlighted in Adam Ruins Housing; they take a housing-first approach to homelessness, putting folks who would die on the street without help directly in supportive, permanent
Putting all that together, here’s a rough breakdown of my donations this year:
Assorted smaller donations to Planned Parenthood, ProPublica
, and Wikipedia, all of which provide essential services that I and others in my community use every day.
These are just my donations for this year, mind you - I reevaluate and change my ratios every year as I learn more about effective charitable giving. For example, I could not find an environmental group this year that I felt was as effective or in as much need as my other choices; but since I believe climate change is the most pressing issue facing our species, I hope to next year.
Again, this is just what I do - I encourage you to read up on the subject, and roll your own approach!