‘Tis the season to give! Words of Ward Philanthrophy for 2013

I’m issuing my annual call for folks to help out those that are worse off than themselves this holiday season through charity.

For those with short attention spans, choose one of the top 3 charities over at givewell.org, the best charity recommendation site I know of, here.  (I recommend & have been giving to Against Malaria Foundation as the best way to save lives, especially those of children.  For poverty alleviation, Give Directly is the best choice.)

Why (and where) you should give

As comparatively wealthy members of the world, I believe folks like us have a moral duty to improve the lot of others in the world.  Even if you don’t agree with me on that, consider that helping others has been shown to do wonders for the person doing the helping.  Make yourself feel good by donating to charity!

I strongly recommend giving to causes that help those living in extreme poverty outside the US and other ‘first world’ countries.  This is because dollars go the furthest when helping those that have next to nothing.

Think about it this way:

You could save a life for about $2,000 (per Givewell.org) by purchasing mosquito nets to protect children in Africa, or you could spend $100,000 – $200,000 on cancer research to extend an American life by 3 – 6 months.  As thinking human being, I know the right thing to do is to save as many lives with my limited resources as I can, even if they are ones across the globe whose names I will never know, and whose pictures I will never see.

I believe that every human’s happiness is just as important as another’s, so I give internationally through charities recommended by Givewell to maximize the good that my dollars do in the world.

I might give token amounts to causes that are emotionally close to me or my friends & family (cancer, Alzheimer’s, a Boy’s & Girl’s recreational club in my neighborhood), but I know that I have a responsibility to donate any significant amount in the most effective way possible, and that the human race as a whole will be better for it.

Give smart!

Something like less than 25% of charities measured are actually shown to produce social benefits, so it’s important to choose carefully when giving.  Givewell.org is my favorite charity selector, and has been for years.  They evaluate charities using rigorous standards and provide simple, easy-to-follow recommendations, so that you can be confident that your dollars will go a long way.

Take action

Every year several members of my family and I reduce our holiday stress & increase our feelings of well-being by forgoing presents.  Instead, we commit the same amount of money we would have spent on gifts to worthy charitable causes.  I highly recommend you try this approach (or a hybrid version such as half gifts/half charity) with your own friends and family (excluding those under the age of 18 or so, of course :).)

This yearly activity has several benefits including 1) not having to find & shop for gifts for others, 2) not having to think up gift ideas for things you want others to buy you, 3) making you feel good about helping people, and 4) leaving you no worse off financially than if you bought presents instead.

So, pick a cause and do some good this season!  Click here to pick from a great list of worthy charities, or save a life and donate to Givewell’s top choice, and my personal choice, Against Malaria Foundation.

(And if you weren’t convinced, here’s more good press on Givewell from freakonomics.com.  You don’t just have to take my word for it!)

Happy holidays and happy giving!

Author: Ward Williams

Personal finance blogger with an interest in saving, investing, and learning new skills and doing things for myself & others!

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