Those of you who follow me on Facebook may know that I’ve been re-evaluating my charitable giving. Here is the conclusion of that re-evaluation process.I’m putting this up publicly because I hope it encourages others to donate too. I also hope that other people read this and can add to their perspectives on how to go about charitable giving.
Las week I set about answering three big questions. How much should I give? What causes should I give to? And which organisations within those causes should I give to?
First, how much. I have chosen to give a total of £200 per month, which is £2400 per year, or about 6% of my disposable income. This is a lot more than I used to give. I want to justify it to you guys and also to myself.
The truth is, I am a single guy with a decent professional salary living at a below-market rent in my aunt’s house. I’m living in lockdown and there is very little to spend my income on. I can afford to pay this. And globally, even if I were to give away half my income, I would still be richer than most people on the planet.
How much to give is an extraordinarily difficult question. There is no satisfying way to answer it. What is it that makes a particular number the correct one? 6% is little more than a bad throw at a dartboard. There is no real reason why 6% would be right. But let’s go for it for now. We can always re-think later.
This is a baseline as well, not a limit. I give to more immediate people in need when they emerge. But I want to mainly give for the good it can do, rather than because a cause is immediately visible or a fundraiser has stopped me outside of a station.
The next imponderable is what causes to give to. I generally went for causes where a pound would have maximal impact. I also generally want to focus on more long-term issues, again to maximise impact. The five areas I ended up with were as narrow as I could get. Those were
The most pressing existential threat to humanity and the planet
Contraception & Sexual Health
Access to contraception is good for multiple reasons. For one thing, it reduces the spread of some really horrible diseases. For another, it enables women to have much greater control over their lives. Having a child is one of the most impactful things a person can go through. That has to be something that the mother can actually decide on. And finally for future, to-be-born people, it is so much better to be born to parents who want you than to parents who do not.
My research suggested that this is, pound-for-pound, the single most efficient way of saving lives.
As in the case of contraception, the aim is not just to help people but also to empower them to be able to make their own decisions. Nobody knows their own needs better than themselves. There is also a lot of value in testing out no-strings-attached transfer payments as a way of fighting poverty. If it works, it may be another policy tool for both advanced and developing welfare states.
We have crap politicians for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is our awful voting system. In this case I went against my other tendencies and focused on the UK. It is where I have the most political understanding, and I also have a lot of attachment to this awful, endlessly disappointing country. If we all decided to change things, then Britain could become an actual democracy one day.
Finally, I had to decide which charities to give to within these causes. I went for British charities, which means I can gift aid my donations, meaning the government adds 25% to each of my donations apart from the Electoral Reform Society (The ERS is a poltical organisation so cannot be gift aided). And within this, I went for ones which had reports which stated in numbers what their impact were, and which were also independently positively reviewed by other organsiations.
In the end, I could not work out what the best split should be between the organisations, so I split my contributions equally.
£40 to Cool Earth
£40 to Marie Stopes International
£40 to the Malaria Consortium
£40 to Give Directly
£40 to the Electoral Reform Society
Which gives the £200 monthly total. £240 once the gift aid is added.
That’s it. Probably a couple of days’ research and thinking. An increase in donations from before of many times over, and a reasoned decision making process of sorts. I’ll do a rethink again next year, and many times in future. But I’m happy now that I have a better foundation for my giving now than I ever had before.