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.
The air is chill, the days are short and the streets are decked with lights - it’s Christmastime. But if you’re anything like me, you struggle to come up with presents for people to get you, not wanting to accumulate yet more stuff. You may even have stopped getting presents from friends or family. Or perhaps you don’t like to ask for things for yourself, or don’t buy into the materialism and consumerism of it all.
If this description fits you then you may be interested in running one of Charity Science’s Christmas fundraisers. These provide a webpage through which your family and friends can easily donate to one of the world’s best charities, as a present to you. You simply tell them that this is what you’d like. Our main page on these fundraisers has suggested messages, and we provide default copy for your fundraiser page, so it’s very easy on your part. If people want to give you something physical, we provide illustrated tokens that they can print out or email. And there’s a way to have your donation be revealed on Christmas day.
We’ve helped many people run similar fundraisers for their birthdays, and these have got great reactions from their friends and family, raising hundreds or thousands of dollars each - one raised $7,000! This was so even when people hadn’t received presents for years, so if you’re in that boat then there’s no need to let it put you off - instead, see it as the first present for some time that’s been worth asking for. When you can treat someone for worms for 50 cents or distribute a bednet for $6, it’s worth starting getting presents again - and you’ll also be sharing a great opportunity with the people you tell! This outreach effect is another reason to run a fundraiser.
Christmas is the classic time of year to talk about giving, and a time when people can fundraise for charity without appearing pushy. So why not take this opportunity and create a Christmas fundraiser now, or register your interest? Donations to the world’s best charities are a chance to save and improve lives - and a present worth asking for.
Say you want to do good throughout your life. One unfortunate possibility is that your interest in doing so might fade over time. There are many examples of this happening, from youthful activists getting jaded to former nonprofit workers moving to money-making jobs. But this fading is not inevitable, and can be both understood and prevented. We all want to be good people, and there are simple tricks that can help us accomplish that and prevent our good intentions from fading away.
There are a few major reasons why we might do less good in the future, and they often work together. The first, and most common one, might be a failure of willpower. Just like going to the gym, doing the right thing can sometimes be hard even if we think we should do it. You might want to make a donation but also really want a little more spending money. Often we just don’t have the willpower or energy to make the choices we want to. The second reason is distraction and forgetfulness. It is easy to forget things, particularly when you have a busy life. I know a friend who kept intending to donate but kept forgetting and getting distracted for months before they did so. Another common reason is a change in life circumstances or environment. Getting new friends or partners who are not supportive of your altruistic endeavours might change them. Another change in your life circumstances that could change how much you focus on altruism is having a child and prioritizing them.
Fortunately there are a number of easy things that you can do to ensure you do good in both the short and the long term. One of them is doing a little more good now; if you might not always be able to support your cause then it’s worth focusing on what you can accomplish today. Another very easy thing to do is to set up recurring donations. These donations happen automatically and it’s then impossible to forget about them. The third thing anyone can do - and one of the most scientifically backed ways to ensure you follow through - is to make a public commitment. For example, many of the world’s richest people have publicly pledged to donate half of their wealth, and there are several websites where you can publicly state your donation plans. Telling your friends and family about your plans also helps you stay true to them.
The final thing you can do is to keep in mind how much your environment affects you. If you want to continue to be a person who cares about the environment, then find friends who also care about the environment. If you really care about poverty, pick a partner who shares that passion. This will not only motivate you to keep up the good you are doing but it might also motivate you to do even more good. I certainly know that when I changed to a more caring peer group it greatly affected how much time and money I dedicated to helping the world.
Doing good over the long term is important and we can greatly increase our odds of succeeding in doing so by making a few simple changes now. For example, by setting up a recurring donation today and publicly telling others about it you are not only spreading the word about an important cause, but also increasing the chances that you’ll continue doing good in the future.
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