There is a lot of need around us. From advertisements highlighting malnutrition, to aid concerts for natural disasters, to individual requests on social media for those in hospital treatment, it can be hard to know where to start with charity. One of the difficulties is deciding where our money should go. Should I give it to someone in my street? Should I give it to someone on the town street? Should I give it within my country? Should I give it overseas? “Charity begins at home, the saying goes, and for many people, charity also stops at home, or not very far from it”, writes Peter Singer in The Life You Can Save. Generally we know how to provide for our home, those we know and love. Yet knowing how to contribute abroad effectively can seem difficult. The problem is when this difficulty ends up creating an inertia to giving charitably, even preventing it entirely.
It can be helpful to consider the effectiveness of the money we wish to give. For example what would $11 do at home, compared with the concentric circles working outwards. In my circumstances $11 would let me shout a coffee for myself and a friend. Whereas that same $11 can provide a mosquito net for two people that can prevent malaria. Malaria can result in death. $11 can prevent that unnecessary death. What $11 can provide domestically differs from it’s efficacy abroad. By choosing effective charities this may sometimes mean choosing to be charitable internationally rather than domestically.
For those wanting to be effective in our giving, our inner questions need not deter us, but rather spur us. Being equipped with knowledge, we can wisely choose where the money we have goes. Did you know that some charities provide hundreds, even thousands, of times greater impact per dollar than others? It is a relief to know that there are effective charities. A tool at thelifeyoucansave.org website shows what your specific donation has the opportunity to provide someone in extreme poverty. Furthermore it also lists specific effective charities where you can have confidence in the effectiveness of the donation.
Choices are sometimes made without consideration of their resulting impact. Whilst I believe that we should give where we feel compelled, if we are seeking wisdom of where to start or where to increase our giving, then that is a matter of the heart and the head. Generally, where we give our money has little to do with the efficacy of each dollar and the benefit it could have. Typically we are motivated out of love or fear. We spend money due to our love towards something or someone. Alternatively we spend because we heed the ramifications if we don’t.
A challenge in psychology is to know what you don’t know. A challenge in sociology is to know who you don’t know. A challenge in my heart is to love those who I don’t know. One way towards this is to decrease ignorance with information and to increase effective giving through effective charities. Because it makes a world of difference when the consequence of our decisions can make a difference to the world.