From the Desk of Our Executive Director

Planning Your Giving Season Personal Best

Increasing people’s concern about the impact and cost-effectiveness of their donations is an important goal of The Life You Can Save. Our recommended nonprofits provide a mechanism for translating that concern into effective action.

This interesting article by Christine Emba that appeared in The Washington Post highlights issues related to the effectiveness of the U.S. foreign aid program, which is nearly $40 billion annually. While the absolute largest foreign aid program worldwide, it is important to note that it is only 0.21% of GDP, which is much lower than the percent given by most affluent nations, e.g. less than a third of what the UK contributes, measured by percent of GDP. The impact achieved and cost effectiveness of individual donors in the U.S. is also problematic. U..S. donors give $282 billion annually, but only $22 billion is given internationally (where dollars go the farthest) and very likely much of that to nonprofits that are not among the most effective.

The results suggest, as Emba writes, "that our complex, traditional programs aren’t more helpful than just giving the money we spend on them to recipients to use as they see fit. And giving cash in larger amounts could be transformational.' We are very proud that the groundbreaking study, which has received extensive deserved attention, was conducted in partnership with IPA about Give Directly’s strategy of direct cash transfers; you see read about it in the Charity Voices section of our newsletter this month.

As we approach Giving Season, I urge everyone to carefully review our list of such highly effective and innovative recommended nonprofits and consider where and how much you can afford to give. As part of this process, use the concept of personal best, in which we look back at our giving behavior from the previous year and set goals to give more effectively and more generously in the upcoming year. Some tools you may find helpful are our Impact Calculator, for helping you measure the potential impact of your donations, and Peter Singer’s income-based recommended donation calculator for considering the amount you want to give. More often than not, we are able to afford to give much more than we may first think we can, without having any noticeable impact on our own comfort—except to actually increase our happiness—while having immense impact in improving the lives of those in desperate need of our help.

Do Good. Feel Good.

Charlie Bresler


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