Philosopher Peter Singer is letting the public decide who will benefit from sales of his latest book, The Most Good You Can Do. By playing a “Giving Game” online, members of the public will determine how $10,000 will be split among some of the world’s best charities.
Singer, often described as the world’s most influential living philosopher, wants people to think more carefully about where they donate their money. The Most Good You Can Do is about Effective Altruism, an international movement in which people resolve to do the most good possible with their lives.
Crucial to the movement is the idea of donating to the charities which have the biggest impact per dollar, rather than the ones best able to tug on the heartstrings. The charities included in the Giving Game are all among the most effective in the world, selected by Singer’s own organization, The Life You Can Save.
“By donating their money to the right charities, people can do an incredible amount of good” says Singer. “Hopefully this Giving Game will get people thinking about the most rational way to choose where to send their donations.”
The Giving Game is available on the book’s website, www.mostgoodyoucando.com. Voters can choose between 16 charities covering areas such as global poverty, animal welfare and climate change, as well as some less well-known causes. The money will be divided up proportionally to votes cast.
Research Volunteers Wanted - Influence Charity Science's Strategy and Investigate Interesting Topics
Would anybody like to do some research for Charity Science? We’re looking for volunteers! We’re about to start a new experiment and we need to compare many different possibilities. Contact me at email@example.com if you’d like to volunteer.
Qualities you should have:
You truly want to gain a deeper understanding of the realities of poverty -- and help combat it. It’s a lazy Tuesday evening and you stumble across the challenge of living on less online. The movement helps participants understand what living on a limited food budget ($2.50 US per day) is like, and to use their experience to fundraise, making it so that fewer people have similar experiences.
But wait, live on $2.50 a day for food? Is that even realistic, possible, or an effective method? Don’t worry, you’re not alone in wondering.
Here are 5 common objections to living on $2.50 a day that people face & why they shouldn’t stop you:
1) I can’t do those days.
Great! You can choose your own dates. The challenge is completely flexible. We only suggested April 22-24 to get a group of us involved at the same time. If you need to stagger dates, go for it.
The spirit of the movement is to gain a brief window into what it’s like to live on so little. As long as you act in that spirit, you can do your thing.
This also means you can extend your dates for a more thorough experience.
2) There’s no way I would survive.
This is the importance of the whole movement. You can survive, it’s just very challenging! And that’s exactly why you should take part. Experience firsthand just how hard life can be at the median income level, but also learn that it is possible.
Plus, you have the power of the internet! Our staff have shared recipes, written a guide, and the power of search can lead you to even more ideas. Who knows, maybe it’ll boost your culinary creativity in the process?
3) This is pointless -- it doesn’t even provide a sliver of what it’s like to be chronically poor.
Ouch. We know, but I don’t think there would be many volunteers if we insisted they got a preventable disease and couldn’t seek treatment. This campaign seeks to give participants a small taste of what it’s like to live at the world median income level.
Also, the more volunteers, the more understanding and interest, and the more donations. Win, win , win.
4) No one will sponsor me!
Fundraising may make you nervous, but fear not! You’ll be surprised by how many of your friends and family support you in this unique challenge. In fact, I hear time and again when people do these fundraisers that they’re surprised at how supportive their friends and family were. Really it shouldn’t be so surprising; they’re your friends after all! Most of the time they’re proud of you for doing something to help others. It’s a lot like when you see a friend running a marathon for charity. It’s heartwarming.
Sometimes people won’t be able to or won’t want to give and that’s alright. Most of the time they simply won’t respond to your email, and no harm done. Just give it a try! You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
5) I don’t even know where to begin.
Right here! Set up your own donation page and get complete details on the challenge and how to participate. We’ve even created a complete guide with recipes and fundraising ideas.
If you've joined our latest campaign, you may want to know more about how live on so little and how to raise the most money you can to help fight poverty. To help you out I've written a guide which includes best practices, common concerns, easy recipes, and how, for once in your life, you can post pictures of your lunch for the greater good. Click here to download the guide.
We do outreach for the most scientifically proven global poverty charities (although we have also worked on other proven areas in the past). You can see the sort of activities we do and the philosophy that we follow elsewhere on this website.
About the job
This is not a conventional job. It's a job for people who truly want to have the biggest positive impact on the world. It requires both creative and intellectually challenging thought. Day to day work will have a lot of diversity. The hours are flexible but the work is intense, every team member contributes to strategy and big picture decisions. We are a young team with a unique startup culture. This job will likely challenge and change you more than any job you've ever had before. We are looking for someone who will be able to grow into a leadership/management position in our organization.
Our team is close-knit and we have lots of social nights, from watching documentaries and TED talks, to discussing philosophy, politics, and charity related issues. We have a fridge with vegan food for everyone in the office to share. People on our team are not just co-workers, but close friends.
You will work on many different forms of outreach for cost-effective charities with the rest of our team. In the past this has included networking, grant-writing, events, research, written communications and giving presentations. What you work on will depend on your skills and interests.
We have a unique startup-like work environment and allow flexible work hours with lots of telecommuting if you are interested. This job can be full-time or part-time and we can start your employment at a month that is convenient for you.
We ask candidates to work for us on a trial basis (with compensation) before we make a full-time offer. In general, this period will last the equivalent of a month or two, though we are flexible regarding the terms (e.g. spreading the equivalent number of hours over a longer period of time). There may be exceptional cases where we are willing to forgo the trial period. Pay is dependent on experience and negotiable but keep in mind that we are a startup charity so it will not be high.
- Passion for charity and making the world a better place
- Scientific and skeptical mindset
- Communication skills
- Interest in working on a small team
- Interest in learning and self-improving
- Able to work from Vancouver/move to Vancouver (although we might make exceptions for exceptional candidates)
- Familiar with GiveWell, Peter Singer, Innovations for Poverty Action, or effective altruism
- Proficient at data analysis and research methods
- Own a laptop
- Vegan or vegetarian
- Experience in a developing country
- Previous nonprofit outreach, fundraising or communication experience (volunteering counts!)
Please send a resume (creative resumes encouraged) and answers to the questions below to firstname.lastname@example.org (You may also send any additional material to support your application, though this is not required.)
Some of you may be interested in taking part in or donating to a new fundraiser that we're running at Charity Science. As well as deworming hundreds of children, it's an unusually good opportunity to find people who are interested in cost-effective charity and start conversations with them - something it's rare to find an excuse to do. Dozens of people from countries around the world are going to take part. Here are the details:
What: Spend only $2.50 a day on food for three days. Get sponsored to raise money to fight poverty. (You'll find different figures for different currencies.)
Why: Half of the world spends $2.50 or less on food each day. This reflects income levels at which people often can’t afford basic health care. All money raised goes to buy medicines that cost only 50 cents. As readers of this forum will know, this is an exceptional opportunity to do good.
Who: People who want to do something to help the global poor and get a sense of what poverty's like.
When: April 22-24, 2015. If those dates don’t work for you you can set your own. For example, if you're at a US university you can choose to do it on April 6-8, when some American college groups are doing it.
What you can vary: Any of this: the amount you spend, the number of days and the date. For example, see below for the ‘challenge mode’ of spending only $1.50.
How: Sign up via these links for the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden and the Eurozone. Then ask friends and family to sponsor you. We’ll send you guides, pointers, and we can even do a one-on-one Skype to help you help the most people possible. Just contact us at email@example.com with “Running a fundraiser” as the subject line.
Left: What a typical American family eats in a week. Right: What a typical family in Chad (an African country) eats in a week.
How do you join? - Click Here
Click here then follow the prompts. You set your goal for how much you’d like to raise (we suggest setting it as $500 or more), write about why you’re doing it, and then it’s as simple as asking your friends and family to sponsor you. Most people will be touched by your dedication to helping those less fortunate and will be happy to help you out.
Or you can just donate to the campaign! 50 cents buys a pill that treats a child for a whole year, so just $20 buys enough for 40 children.
If you'd like to use a currency other than US dollars, you can use our pages for Canada, the UK, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden and the Eurozone.
Where does the money go? Deworm the World
All funds raised goes to Deworm the World, which gives out medicine that cures children who have parasitic worms. These parasites live inside your body and suck your blood. The effects include fatigue, bloody diarrhoea, fever, chills, and other such lovely symptoms. Rather understandably, being so ill leads to many sick days from school and work. In fact, this is why deworming is arguably one of the most cost-effective ways to give children an education, among other things (Miguel and Kremer 2004 found that it led to a 25% reduction in school absenteeism, although this is a difficult effect to pin down; for more details, see this from GiveWell).
Effective altruists will be familiar with the case for fundraising for Deworm the World, as one of the charities that GiveWell recommends as the most effective in the world. Deworming drugs themselves cost around 50 cents, a figure we find works well for marketing, and they can cure someone for a year. For more information see GiveWell's detailed review, or Charity Science's simpler summary.
What could you possibly eat for only $2.50 a day?
Not much. But that’s kind of the point. It’s to get a sense of how limiting $2.50 is. It’s like running a marathon for charity, but a lot more related.
However, it’s not all abstinence. (That’s reserved for the people taking the challenge mode who will spend only $1.50 a day.) Here’s a few cheap meals people have tried in the past:
What are the rules?The spirit of the event involves getting a (very rough) experience of poverty, and to ultimately make it so that fewer people have to have similar experiences. As long as it is done in this spirit, do what works for you. If you need to spend a bit more money, you can set your own amount. If you can’t do it on April 22-24, do a different time. If you lapse during your three days, it’s OK. You might even want to mention it on Facebook, talking about how difficult it was. It will help people understand how hard poverty is.
Why $2.50?Half of the world lives on less than $1,368 a year. Around 65% of that is spent on food, which means $2.43 a day. We rounded to $2.50 a day because round numbers are nicer, but you can spend only $2.43 if you’d like.
You might have traveled to a poor country and know that you can buy more for $2.50 overseas. This is a good point, which is why the $2.43 figure is adjusted to how much $2.43 could buy in the USA in 2005. That’s not much. Now imagine that you have to use the remaining $1.75 per day on shelter, transport, healthcare, and entertainment. That’s why we’re running this campaign. Because that’s just too little and we want to change it.
Challenge Mode: live on $1.50Yawn. $2.50? You already did that in college. Well worry not my frugal friend, there is a challenge mode! $1.50 a day is roughly the international poverty line, so why not try to live on only that for 3 days?
Why do the challenge mode?
What if I live outside the US?We have separate pages with different currencies for the following countries:
If you don’t live in any of those countries then you can either join the US page which will let your friends donate in dollars or you can email us to see if we can add your country. Donations are tax-deductible in the US and Canada.
If you haven't heard already, we're running an event where people live on the median global food budget for three days. It's more like running a marathon for charity but more related to poverty and a lot easier for the less fit among us. Although you might find it challenging in its own different sort of way. You can find more details here.
So what can you eat on the global median food budget? Here are some ideas:
Surprisingly, if you bake chickpeas long enough, they start tasting a bit like chicken. Who would have guessed? And they're good for you!
Start heating oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread chickpeas on a baking sheet, put a few tablespoons of vegetable oil, spices and salt to taste on and mix to evenly cover chickpeas. Place in oven for 20 minutes. Stir. Put in again for 10 minutes and check to see if crunchy. Cook until a texture you enjoy. Should take around 40 minutes total. Add more spices to taste after finished.
Boil potato in about 1 ½ cups water until soft. In the meantime sautée onion until translucent. Add leek and fry for about 4 minutes. Add onion and leek to potato and water mixture. Mash with potato masher to desired consistency. Add salt and margarine to taste.
Cook rice using your preferred method. While this is cooking, sautée onion and carrots in oil until soft. Add rice and soy sauce to taste. Fry until slightly crispy.
While not terribly high on the nutritional scale, ramen noodles certainly are delicious and cheap!
Peanut Butter on Toast
An oldie but a goodie. You can also mix it up by adding sliced banana or topping it with some honey.
A quick, easy, warm breakfast meal, and it's quite cheap. You'll probably have to skip out on any berries or nuts you usually put in though, as berries add up quickly.
Charities are not wasting your money the way you think they are. The most common way people think charities misuse donations is by paying their CEOs exorbitant salaries or spending it all on fundraising and administrative costs. So the nonprofit sector has made a big deal of advertising the fact that “100% of your money goes directly to the poor” or “all of your money goes to program costs”.
But that’s completely missing the point. At the end of the day, you probably don’t really care about money going to the program; what you truly care about is helping people. What’s the difference? Well, all of your money could go to a program that doesn’t actually help, or it could go to a program that’s incredibly inefficient at doing so. Allow me to illustrate.
Imagine two charities, Stop AIDS (a made up charity for illustration’s sake), and Homeopaths Without Borders (sadly, a real charity). Stop AIDS provides antiretroviral therapy to AIDS patients, a clinically proven medicine that dramatically improves the quality and quantity of life for an HIV positive person. Homeopaths Without Borders provides “medicine” that has been proven to not work, and also tries to teach people about how their method works better than that evil Western stuff. The catch is they have very little overhead. They’re mostly volunteer run. Stop AIDS though spends a lot on marketing and research and development. Who would you rather donate to?
Now, I chose the most obviously ineffective charity I could find to prove my point, but there are many charities that have no scientific evidence of impact. It’s the norm, in fact. And there’s a fair few that have active evidence finding that they don’t work, such as Scared Straight, and PlayPumps. Yet they’re still actively seeking and accepting funding. And don’t count on them telling you outright that they have no evidence, or evidence that they don’t work. Any fundraiser caught doing that would be fired immediately.
What if the charity does have evidence that it works though? Then they’re probably not wasting your money, right? Not really. While the charity not actually working is a very big problem, it’s not the biggest. The biggest problem is charities being inefficient at accomplishing their goals.
Take for example giving children an education in a developing country. The classic way to do this is to directly pay for a kid’s education in the form of a scholarship. If you spend $100 on scholarships, you get about 3 months of education. That’s $33 per month; not bad. The reason many kids don’t go to school isn’t money, however, it’s health. They’re too unwell to go. One common health reason is snail fever, a worm that infects children through the water and literally sucks their blood. It only costs 50 cents to cure, but their family can’t afford it. If you spend $100 on deworming children, you increase time spent at school by 13.9 years.
There are two ways of looking at this - the pessimistic and optimistic way. The pessimistic way is to say that a scholarship charity is wasting 98% of your potential impact. The optimistic way (my favorite) is to say that you can increase your impact by 50 times if you switch from scholarships to deworming. That’s pretty amazing.
There are millions of examples such as these where if you think strategically you can help hundreds of times more people by donating to a more cost-effective charity. It’s kind of exciting, because it means that if you donate strategically, you can help more people as a middle-class citizen than a millionaire philanthropist giving inefficiently.
So what’s the solution, if the real way charities are wasting your money is by spending it on programs that don’t work, or if they do, work inefficiently? Well, there’s a research organization called GiveWell that looks through the scientific evidence, and find charities that are both scientifically proven and cost effective. They then find the best of the best, so that you can be sure that no charity wastes your money again. There’s also us, Charity Science, who takes their research and livens things up and presents the information in videos, infographics, and blogs (like these!), while basing them on GiveWell’s rock-solid research.
When a charity is created most people think about the altruistic intentions behind its creation. They think that the founder wanted to improve the world or wanted to further a specific cause. While I think that this is true in nearly every case, there are also other strong motivations and sometimes these can interfere with or even supersede the organisation’s stated mission.
I recently became aware of an expensive student volunteer exchange program, giving first world college students a chance to help people in the developing world. When I complained to a fellow effective altruist that I thought the program was ineffective compared to top GiveWell recommendations, he observed that the charity seemed fairly effective – only at a different goal. Once I’d considered that the charity might be aiming to provide an enjoyable experience for college students, things started to make sense. Their website shows how many students they have helped, and writes largely about the positive experiences these students had. Very little focus was placed on the outcome of the work in the developing world.
We have written before about how many charities measure intermediate metrics and gave a few reasons why this happens. Yet another reasons is that some charities do not have ‘improving the world’ as their primary focus.
Now of course all charities have many goals aside from their primary mission and often these other goals can improve a charity’s performance. For example growing a charity that is doing great work can be a very positive thing, even if done partly due to raw ambition. But the goal of growth could also push an ineffective charity to expand, taking away donations from effective ones. These side-goals become very worrying when an organization starts prioritizing them over the “bottom line” of the amount of good being done.
How to tell if an organization is over-prioritizing side-goals?
Two recent Charity Science birthday fundraisers have raised thousands of dollars each. As well as simply being inspiring and nice stories to share, they’re interesting examples of how anyone can raise a lot of money and spread awareness of effective charity, and of the reactions that friends and family have to this.
The fundraisers in question were run by Theron Pummer and Peter Hurford. Theron is a philosophy post-doc associated with Oxford’s Population Ethics Project who previously ran the San Diego EA group; Peter is a Chicago-based data scientist who co-founded .impact. They both raised over $5,000 including Charity Science's matching funds, massively overshooting their original goals.
How did they do it? It wasn’t magic. They simply emailed a particularly large cross-section of their personal networks - Peter, for instance, emailed 145 people. Naturally, the majority of these people weren’t in the habit of giving them birthday presents, but this didn’t matter in the way it would have had Theron and Peter been asking for accessories for their private yachts (which I gather are already well furnished). We’ve consistently found that friends and family react very positively when asked if they want to contribute to fundraisers. Many of Theron’s donations came from philosophers who he only knew passingly from conferences and the like, and hadn’t spoken to in a long time.
One useful lesson from this is that many people don’t need much prompting to give to effective charities. Plausibly they were ready to give to charity anyway, and a friend (even a loose one) making an ask prompted them to do so and determined their charity choice. It’s worth noting that Theron and Peter judged that the vast majority of their donations wouldn’t have been made otherwise, basing this partly on what those responsible for those donations said.
If you’d like to see if you can emulate Theron and Peter’s success - and help a great many people in the process - then you can sign up to run a birthday or Christmas fundraiser. If you do, be sure to follow their lead and send out emails far and wide. You may be pleasantly surprised by who gives, and how much.
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