Entries for 'Holly Morgan'

“Surely you don’t just want to make a difference; you want to make the most difference.”
This has become something of a catchphrase for 80,000 Hours Founder Will MacAskill (at least, I like to tease him that it is). I heard The Humane League Founder Nick Cooney say something similar in a recent talk: “We need to ask ourselves, not ‘Am I doing good?’, but ‘Am I doing the most good?’”.
Everything we do has both good and bad consequences. I give money to a homeless woman – she is grateful but her friend down the road feels jealous. I lose my temper with a friend – he feels hurt but it also makes him more emotionally resilient. I go for a run – the exercise improves my health but also makes my legs hurt. Even doing something with very good consequences like donating to our top charity, the Against Malaria Foundation, is bound to also have some bad consequences somewhere down the line – perhaps bed nets block a welcome breeze for a lot of people.
The case of the ethical vegetarian is quite a tricky one. At first it seems that it makes no difference whether he eats the meat or not, since the animal has already been raised and slaughtered, the meat has already been purchased, and no one else is going to eat it. But perhaps if he gives in today, from now on his hosts will know that he will eat any meat perceived to be “left over”, and so will buy more meat accordingly, and over time this could affect consumer demand in such a way as to influence supply.
“It’s just a drop in the ocean.”
This kind of thinking can be discouraging for people who want to help the world, but who feel that their efforts would be futile because the world’s problems are so intimidatingly large. Unsurprisingly, this leads to many people giving up altogether and not contributing to good causes at all, but it can also lead to people making a smaller difference that only feels larger because they have chosen a smaller problem to tackle.
Considering that the term “effective altruism” was coined less than two years ago, I’m excited to have joined 150 other people at three effective altruism camps around the globe this year, and to know that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others identifying as “effective altruists” whom I have yet to meet.
Myth #5: You shouldn't give loads of your money to charity.
“I already do my bit for charity.” While there are sensible limits to how much you should give to charity, those limits are certainly not at the level of “I sponsored my workmate $10 for his charity marathon three months ago (and most people were giving only $5!)”…and yet I hear words to that effect relatively often.
This is another common belief that I come across and it is often related to the idea of giving being a “deeply personal act”. Sometimes it takes the form of a mere assumption that people have never thought to question: “So if I want to give effectively then I need to do a lot of research.” Sometimes it takes the form of something stronger: “Other people have no right to tell me where to donate.”
Many people think that the mark of a good charity is one that spends a large proportion of its donations directly on the program. “Percentage administration costs” remains a popular metric for charity evaluation. In general, people seem to think that while it is sensible for businesses to invest in expensive staff, marketing and miscellaneous administration costs in order to maximize profits, charities will maximize impact by keeping these costs to an absolute minimum.
Peter Singer writes in the New York Times,
“You are thinking of donating to a worthy cause. Good. But to which cause should you give? If you seek help from professional philanthropy advisers, the chances are that they won’t have much to say about this vital question. They will guide you, to be sure, through an array of charitable options.”
Today my homework for Doris Buffett’s Giving With Purpose course is due in. Instead, I submit this blog post.
I am one of 10,000 people taking the online Giving With Purpose course, brought to us by Doris Buffett, sister of Warren Buffett. The stated goals of the course are to: "Learn tips and strategies for effective charitable giving … [and] [h]elp distribute the Foundation's money to local nonprofits you're passionate about".
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