Published 21st September 2019
This section provides resources for an introduction to effective giving, stories of current EA donors, advice on donating, and a list of ways you can pledge a certain amount of your income.
- How Rich Are You?
- Choosing Where to Give
- Advice on Donating Efficiently
- Pledge to Donate in the Future
- Stories from EAs who Give
How Rich Are You?
Even if it seems like you have relatively little to give, you may be richer than you think. Try this online calculator from Giving What We Can, to see where you fall on the world income scale and to see what you would achieve with your donation if you chose to direct your donation to a few specific charities.
For example, if an average wage earner in the UK was to donate 10% of their income, their donations could fund:
To learn more about the importance of effective giving, see REG’s introductory guide here.
Choosing Where to Give
Finding an organisation to donate to can be challenging. Thankfully, there are some organisations that evaluate charities and recommend outstanding giving opportunities, and expert fund managers that can direct your donations. Their recommended charities are characterised by evidence of impact, cost-effectiveness, transparency and room for more funding.
Strategies for choosing where to give
80,000 Hours has a step-by-step guide to choosing where to give, based on your preferences, current knowledge, and the time you have available.
For global health and poverty recommendations, check out GiveWell which conducts rigorous evaluations of promising interventions and charities and recommends a few highly effective charities. Their recommendations are updated every year based on new evidence.
See recommendations by Animal Charity Evaluators to find out some of the best ways to help farmed animals.
Looking at a broader range of cause areas, Founders Pledge conducts research and recommends charities in a variety of philanthropic fields, including climate change, pandemics, mental health and forced displacement.
The Open Philanthropy Project conducts research to choose where to allocate funding from Good Ventures. While they generally don’t specifically recommend charities for other donors, their grant database and research is publically available and can be used to inform giving. Each year Open Philanthropy Projects’ staff publish their suggestions for individual donors (suggestions from December 2019).
Another option is to give your money to a philanthropic fund managed by experts.
Center on Long-Term Risk Fund (CLR Fund)
The CLR Fund’s mission is to support research and policy efforts to prevent technological risks facing our civilization. The priority areas are decision theory and bargaining, specific AI alignment approaches, fail-safe architectures, macrostrategy research, AI governance, as well as social science research on conflicts and moral circle expansion.
The EA Foundation has a fund dedicated to supporting research and policy efforts to prevent technological risks facing our civilization.
You could also choose to put your money into a Donor Lottery where one donor is selected to choose how all the funds are donated. For example if you donated $10,000 into a fund that generated $100,000, you would have a 10% chance of being able to choose where the entire $100,000 gets donated.
This has an advantage over simply donating if you believe a donation of $100,000 to the organisation you wish to support is more than 10 times better than donating $10,000 to them. Also the person that wins the lottery will be more likely to be motivated to do in-depth research to work out where to donate the money, and that might result in a better choice than if all the contributing donors did only a little research to choose where to donate their smaller sums. The Centre for Effective Altruism organises a donor lottery once a year.
Advice on Donating Efficiently
- Donors wishing to donate to US registered charities may wish to utilise Facebook’s donation matching campaign “Giving Tuesday”. Each year on a Tuesday in late November or early December Facebook will match donations made through Facebook to registered charities until their matching funds are exhausted. The funds usually run out in seconds, and while some other countries are eligible, few donors from outside of US manages to get their donations matched. More information is on the EA Giving Tuesday website and facebook group.
- Table of EA-recommended charities and tax-deductible status by country. This table also includes a tax-efficient way of donating to each charity from each country. Remember that charities vary a huge amount in how cost-effective they are. If you get a 30% tax credit for donating, it is better to donate to a charity you think is best, rather than donating 30% more to a tax deductible charity, if you believe the best charity is more than 30% more cost-effective than the tax-deductible charity.
- If your chosen charity isn’t tax deductible in your country you can apply to swap your donations with an international donor. If you are in a country with a large number of tax-deductible EA charities (e.g. UK, US, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland), you may wish to use the donation swap system to help other donors get tax deductions.
- Understanding tax for UK donors.
- Guide to tax for US donors. Note: the standard deduction has increased since this article was written. Find the current standard deduction here.
Donation Funneling Organisations
There are several EA organisations worldwide that can ‘funnel’ tax-deductible donations through to effective charities and EA organisations in other parts of the world.
- Effective Altruism Foundation - Germany and Switzerland (cause-neutral).
- Effective Altruism Australia - Australia (restricted to effective global health and poverty charities)
- Effective Altruism New Zealand - New Zealand (restricted to effective global health and poverty charities)
- EA Norway - Norway (restricted to effective global health and poverty charities, plus some EA Funds)
- RC Forward - Canada (cause-neutral)
- Center for Effective Altruism - US and UK (cause-neutral)
Reasons not to donate now
- 80,000 Hours outlines the arguments for giving now and giving later.
- If you’re early in your career, you may want to consider earning to save rather than donating immediately.
- Paul Christiano discusses the reasons for and against giving now and giving later.
- Economist Eva Vivalt discusses why she now favours giving later.
- If you want to allocate your donations later, but still want the money to come out of your bank account now, you can create a Donor Advised Fund. This will allow you to get psychological and tax benefits that go along with donating now, and you can choose later where the money goes. Donor Advised Funds can only grant to registered charities in your country, so the use of your money is restricted.
Whether to split your donations between several charities or just donate to one
- Some charities offer to double or triple your donations - called “donation matching. While there are some exceptions, this matching is usually illusory and the matching funds would have gone to the charity whether or not you donated. This blog post by GiveWell explains more. Exceptions include Facebook’s Giving Tuesday, as while Facebook would have donated the money without your donation, your donation could cause the money to be allocated to more effective charities.
Take a Pledge to Donate in the Future
- The Giving What We Can Pledge - A commitment to give 10% or more to effective causes while working, and 1% of spending money while a student or unemployed.
- Founder’s Pledge - A giving pledge for entrepreneurs and startup founders to give 2% or more of their personal proceeds.
- Raising for Effective Giving - A giving pledge for professional poker players.
- GivingAlpha - A pledge for people in the finance industry.
- One For the World - A pledge to give 1% or more to One For the World’s portfolio of high impact charities.
- The Life You Can Save Pledge - A pledge to donate to high-impact charities, with the percentage based on your income level, and challenge yourself to do a little bit better each year.
Stories from EAs who give
- Jeff and Julia.
- Ozy (and Ozy on visualising donations).
- Other stories from the Giving What We Can blog.
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