Jenny Jacobs, a mother of two on a modest income in Yorkshire, UK, gives more than 10 percent of her income each year to effective charities. In this interview, she describes why she decided to increase her giving, how her giving makes her feel, and how she fits it into her budget.
Q: Which charities do you support currently, and why?
The main charities I support are Against Malaria Foundation and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, because these are ones consistently highly rated by GiveWell and recommended by Giving What We Can (GWWC), of which I’m a member. I have also supported GiveDirectly, but as I can’t Gift-Aid those donations, tend not to donate there because I love to get the Chancellor to add back some of my tax to my donations. But in a very small way, I still also support charities I’ve always supported, like UNICEF and Book Aid International.
Q: Do you give a specific percentage of your income, and if so, what do you do to ensure that you meet your target?
I aim to give 10 percent, which is what I’ve pledged to do, and have managed just over that so far (I’ve been a member of GWWC for three years now). I donate as regularly as possible—monthly on the whole, although occasionally it’ll be two months at a time. That makes it easy as I can just donate 10 percent of my headline gross pay as per the pay slip.
Q: What inspired you to decide to start giving more than you used to?
I’d been feeling increasingly frustrated with the way things seem to work, with inequality both locally and globally on the rise, and global warming making life worse mostly for the poorest people on the planet. I got fed up with just complaining about the way of the world—I wanted to do something. More and more I felt that I needed to make a difference. I wasn’t really sure how. I did various things—joined the Green Party, joined the Equality Trust—but although these were all good and important things, I knew I had to do more. Then I read an interview with Toby Ord of GWWC in the Guardian in December 2011 and immediately knew—with some misgivings!—that this was the next thing I had to do.
I went on the GWWC website and read the Peter Singer essay, which convinced me totally. I did still resist for about a month while I mulled it over, as it seemed a very big step to take. When I actually posted my pledge, I had a momentary panicky feeling! It’s quite hard now to think back and remember what I worried about. Donating 10 percent has just become part of my life, not something that gives me any concern whatsoever. When, three years in, I realised that with the Gift Aid, I’d donated over £10,000, I felt very proud.
Q: Do you feel like you’ve had to make sacrifices in your (or your family’s) lifestyle in order to meet your giving target?
At first I did have to adjust my finances. I’d been saving regularly and basically instead of saving, I gave what I’d been saving to charity instead. So there wasn’t an immediate effect, but it did mean that if my car had broken down or got written off, I didn’t have the back-up of regular savings to fall back on. However, as I’ve adjusted to donating regularly, I’ve actually been able to start saving again as well – and no, I haven’t had more than a 1 percent pay rise in the last three years, as I’m a fairly lowly public sector employee! I probably buy less “stuff”—but that’s good, as my house is full enough anyway. I still buy far too many books, though!
Q: How do you feel about your giving, and why does it make you feel that way?
It makes me feel happy that I really know now that I am making a difference and over the course of my donating life, will save some lives. It also helps make me feel positive and empowered; knowing that you really can make a difference, that what you do matters and that you are making good choices, all helps combat that feeling of alienation and ennui I see in many people who think that the same things will happen whatever you do or don’t do. It’s not true!
Plus, it has given me a different perspective on society and our relationships with our fellows. I know we are all connected, we really are all in it together—that cuts across borders and boundaries—and we need to help each other where we can.
Q: If you had any advice to give other working parents to help them find ways to fit giving into their budgets and lives, what would it be?
Hmm, that’s a tricky one, as everyone’s circumstances will be different. But I think if 10 percent seems a huge step—and it is if, like me, you’d previously only been donating about 2 percent—then I’d try gradually increasing donations in stages. I’d read the helpful articles and quotes on websites like The Life You Can Save and GWWC, and also the charity websites themselves. AMF lists all its donations and it’s great to see other people donating—and that can encourage you to donate too, it makes you feel you’re part of something big and something good. There’s great camaraderie in the community too, with support groups both virtual (like on Facebook) and groups that meet up for real. I do think that feeling of being part of a great movement of ordinary people who just want to make the world a better place is a wonderful thing.