By Michael Dello-Iacovo
Giving Games are a great way to build numbers for a new chapter for The Life You Can Save, and provide opportunities to teach people about effective altruism and the importance of considering the effectiveness of charities when donating.
I was recently involved with running a Giving Game in Adelaide to help kick start a new local chapter in Australia. We introduced the concepts of effective altruism and discussed why it is important to consider the effectiveness of charities. We then summarized the work of two highly effective Australian charities, The Fred Hollows Foundation and Oxfam Australia. After dividing the audience into small groups to discuss which charity they thought was most effective, we held a vote to determine the winner. The Life You Can Save had agreed to donate $10 per attendee to the winning charity to give people incentive to think critically. Fred Hollows won with a solid lead, and received a $220 donation.
Photo: The Life You Can Save Adelaide president Michael Dello-Iacovo talks about the importance of using evidence-backed research when deciding where to donate to charity.
I was surprised by how easy it actually was to organize the Giving Game. I’d like to share our experiences of the event and some tips on how to run your own.
Nuts and bolts
We approached a university philosophy club about co-hosting the event, which made it easy to book a hall in the university, and many of the Giving Game participants were from the club. The day of the event, we gave out several copies of Peter Singer’s books The Life You Can Save and The Most Good You Can Do. We tallied votes using Google Forms, which allowed us to populate a spreadsheet in real time and allowed people to vote on their phones. We included an option for participants to leave an email address to be contacted about upcoming events and follow-up for the event.
What worked well
We spent $80 on drinks and snacks to encourage people to stick around after the event and engage in conversation. This seemed quite effective, as around 10 people stayed about 45 minutes after the talk, discussing effective altruism. It’s hard to say whether an extra $80 will be donated to a charity by these participants as the result of the snacks, but I believe the money was well spent.
The event was promoted on like-minded Facebook groups and university clubs—for example, through youth charity clubs. A lot of the audience members came from this line of outreach. Just make sure to ask the group admin for permission before you post about the event on their page!
What didn’t work well
Paying for online advertising seemed like a waste of money. For a cost of $75, around 40 people viewed the ad, but after speaking to the audience members I can rather confidently say that no more than one found out about the event from the ad. I would advise against using paid online advertising unless you have done so before and know how to target an audience.
We did suggest at the end of the talk that participants take The Life You Can Save pledge to give a percent of their income to effective charities, but my feeling is that this was largely ignored. In hindsight a more immediate way to commit may have been more effective, like handing out paper pledges which people can enter a percent and sign, then take with them.
People deliberated greatly over their choice of charity. In the end Fred Hollows seems to have won over Oxfam because it is a more focussed charity and is therefore easier to quantify what a donation would achieve with them. Fred Hollows focusses on curing preventable blindness, and can do so for around $50 per case. Oxfam focuses on a range of areas, including aid and development, and campaigns for women’s rights and climate change related programs. These are all good causes, but it is harder to say what a $220 donation to Oxfam will do.
Photo: Participants discuss the merits of two highly effective Australian-based charities at a recent Giving Game hosted at a university in Adelaide.
Several audience members told me they had never considered the possibility that some charities might be more effective than others, or that some charities and programs actually cause more harm than good. If you are on this website, chances are these ideas are obvious to you, but it’s important to recognize that they aren’t common knowledge. So get out there and start spreading the word about effective altruism!
Michael Dello-Iacovo is a geophysicist working for an Australian resources company and undertaking a PhD in off-Earth mining with the University of New South Wales. He co-founded and is now the president of The Life You Can Save Adelaide chapter.