‘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!

More good ideas for charitable giving

It’s estimated that worms treatment has a benefit-to-cost ratio of 20:1! Also, it affects 2 billion people (400 million children) and costs only ~0.25 cents per kid to treat. Sounds like a fantastic use of charitable dollars.

– Give to “Room to Read” to fund education around the world.  ($250 for 1-yr of schooling for a girl who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.)  http://www.roomtoread.org/involvement/adopt.html

– Below is a good post by Tim Ferris (author of the ‘lifestyle design’ book “4-Hour Work Week”.)  He gives convincing rationale for why you should give NOW (and not wait until you are older/have more money):

http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2007/10/04/karmic-capitalist-should-i-wait-until-im-rich-to-give/

‘Tis the season… to give! Financially savvy charity

While this blog is primarily about how people can enrich themselves, I haven’t yet addressed another very important and similar topic: how people can enrich others.  Since the holidays are a time when people contemplate giving back to the community, their church, the poor, the environment, etc, I thought I’d share what my family is contributing to.

The Grameen Foundation is a microcredit organization dedicated to eradicating poverty.  They pursue this goal by giving low-interest loans to the poorest people in the world (and generally to women, who are more likely to use the money to better their families and community.)  These loans can be used to start or expand businesses, allowing the poor to literally pull themselves out of poverty.  The assumption behind microcredit organizations is that if poor communities are given access to reasonable credit sources (excluding “predatory” high-interest/fee loans), they can make economic advances akin to  wealthier individuals and communities.  Loans are often very small (in hundreds of US dollars or even less.)  Loan recipients might use these funds to expand inventory in a small road-side shop, or to purchase an additional cow to produce more milk. 

This theory has proven highly successful thus far, with 70% of the Grameen Foundation’s loan recipients rising above the poverty line (measured by wages of less than $1-2 US/day) within 5 years after receiving the loan.  The pay back rate of these loans is also very high (96% as of 2003.)  This is in part due to the fact that loans are given to groups of people.  Each individual in the group is responsible for entire group’s loans.  The group has a high incentive to ensure that its members repay their individual loans, or else the whole group loses access to its credit.

Microcredit is just one way a philanthropic individual can better the situation of those less fortunate around the world.  There are many charities out there, but I encourage you to give wisely.  Some groups make better use of their funds than others.  There are web sites like Charity Navigator or the Motley Fool’s ‘Foolanthropy’ section that help conscientious givers find charities that make the most out of the dollars they donate.

If you’re finding yourself a little cash-strapped this holiday (and many in the US and around the world are), you may want to consider alternative ways to give.  One thing I like to do is ask others to make a donation to the charity of my choosing, instead of buying me a gift.  This absolves me of 1) having to think of something for them to get me that I may not even want that much and 2) having to make the donation myself.  Often, my family members request the same of me, so we all end up donating to each other’s charities.  Personally, I find this more satisfying than collecting another “thing” for Christmas that I don’t really need, but that’s up to you.  (And besides, you can always buy yourself something later if you decide you really want it.)

Happy giving and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, etc,

Ward

P.S. The Motley Fool has a summary of the Grameen Foundation’s operations if you’d like to learn more: http://www.fool.com/foolanthropy/about/grameen.htm