1. The procrastinator
The procrastinator really would like to donate but never quite gets around to it. There's always something that needs to be done before they can really donate. Maybe it’s finding the right charity or picking how much to donate. Maybe they should put it in savings for now but they are going to donate sometime later for sure…
If you're a procrastinator learn how to stop procrastinating your donations today!
2. The charity nerd
The charity nerd loves data and research and spends countless hours looking at different charities and learning more. They drool over detailed information and often can list way more facts than other people know (or want to know) about the charities they are donating to.
Did you know malaria is the 11th most common cause of deaths worldwide? If you do you are probably a charity nerd.
If you're a charity nerd you can learn the most in depth facts about our top charities by checking out GiveWell. You can also check out raw data on development at Gapminder.
3. The peer pressured donor
The peer pressured donor tends to donate when they are pressured to. Whether it is by a door-to-door fundraiser or a group of friends that is also donating. They tend to look towards others to make sure they are making the right choice and check that others think it’s a good call.
If you're a pressured donor you should look at what others are saying about high impact charities.
4. The rationalizer
The rationalizer comes up with dozens of excuses why not to donate. They might be concerned that aid is dead or that charities don’t make a real difference.
If you're a rationalizer you should look at “the charities that are guaranteed to work”.
5. The time-effective donor
The time effective donor wants to make a difference but unlike the charity nerd does not want to spend a lot of time doing it. They are busy with other projects and activities they want to make a quick donation to a good cause without having to spend hours picking the best cause.
If you a time effective donor we recommend you look at “our top charities”
6. The first time donor
The first time donor may be new to the charity sector or new to donating. They are unsure of where or maybe even how to donate they likely do not have a chosen charity yet and might be unsure which of the above categories they fall into yet but are interested in learning more.
If you're a first time donor we recommend reading the content on our website.
What is wrong with the following argument?
“Protests worked for the civil rights movement so they should work for our cause!”
This type of argument is commonly used by charities, social movements, and other organizations to justify an action they are taking. It is a specific form of historical evidence.
Historical evidence can be a useful tool in determining what might work or what might be worth doing more thorough testing on, such as a randomized controlled trial (GiveWell’s history of philanthropy is a great example of this). But sadly there are such significant problems with most historical evidence that it is not really useful. How can we tell if it’s good evidence or bad evidence? Some general characteristics of the good and bad historical evidence are listed below.
All these flaws are really hard to avoid. In practice, most charities’ historical evidence is about as good as a single anecdote. It’s likely that they cherry-picked evidence from a few successful examples which they knew about offhand, overstating their success and connection to the current issue. Good historical evidence is almost always written down with thorough citations and conservative claims.
Next time you read a historical claim, run through this checklist in your head to see how strong the evidence actually is. You’ll be surprised at how shaky the most confidently asserted beliefs are.
There are two kinds of transparency:
Convenience can make a huge difference. People put junk food on the top shelf because even this small change can make us eat healthier. Studies have also shown that people are convenience maximizers and want to put in as little effort as possible. If something is a step harder there is generally a huge drop off rate. For example charities know that if they want certain pages to get traffic it's good to link them directly from the home page because most people will not be bothered enough to go to a different page to find it.
If I wanted to make information technically possible to access but I did not really want people to see it, it would be easy to set up a bunch of steps that seem reasonable but will reduce the number of people who end up seeing the information dramatically. Some examples below.
Are you a charity skeptic?
A charity skeptic is anyone who has:
Are all charities good?
Some people think that all charities are great, but this is simply not so. The world is rife with stories of charities embezzling money, spending only 2% of donations on program expenses, and otherwise being poorly run. Additionally, despite having the best of intentions, charities often just aren’t doing much good, or are actually making things worse.
Are all charities bad?
Also no. As with most things in life, the world is not black and white. There are charities out there who have good leadership, use their donations intelligently, and run programs that have scientific evidence backing their impact.
However, it can be hard to tell which charities are good and bad because most charities lack evidence (particularly evidence that is publicly available) and mostly rely on having a flashy website and a good story to convince people that they are doing good. Few donors require rigorous evidence of impact before giving.
How do you tell the best from the bad?
The method most people use is based on convenience or their intuition, neither of which are great methods. Convenience is choosing whichever charity we hear about in the news or learn about from a friend. Generally it is not connected to how much good the charity does, but is often connected with the size or fundraising ability of the charity.
Intuition is likely even worse. We live in a pretty complex world. Even experts in the charity sector have trouble telling what is going to work and what won’t. Often our intuitions are based on only a page of writing, or even just a single paragraph. This is not to mention that humans have many biases (systematic errors in their thinking). Even the smartest and most informed people would find it near impossible to tell what charity does the most good with so little information.
To really know what works in charity takes years of research and careful comparison of the strongest scientific evidence. Now most of us do not have time to spend years studying charities. Luckily, there is a group that has already done the research and published it online for all to see.
GiveWell is an organization that has transformed the charity world, especially for charity skeptics. They are an independent, scientific and skeptical charity reviewer.
Unlike other charity review websites, they do not spend only minutes looking at each charity. They spend thousands of hours investigating each of their top charities and publish their research methodology, findings, and anything they learn about them, be it positive or negative.
They have been called the “gold standard for charity review” and this title is well earned. Not only do they have pages and pages of write-ups on top causes, charities and research findings, they have also been independently reviewed and spot checked by other experts and enthusiasts in the field.
We have double checked much of their work ourselves and have consistently been impressed by the quality and accuracy of it. If you are a charity skeptic and want to see all the details about the best charities, check out GiveWell’s analyses of their top charities. Or, if you want easy reads which succinctly summarize the charities and the evidence behind them, check out our Proven Charities page.
You also might be interested in our operations blog that details: our month to month organizational progress, the more technical ideas we have, and our board meeting minutes