Charity giving: how to do good in 2021 while social distancing

Talking about your charitable donations feels uncomfortable.

Effective Altruism in 3 minutes

  • Should I change jobs?
  • Should I give money?
  • Should I give time?

Should you change jobs?

Should you give money?

Whom should I give to?

  • Do I view every human life as equal? Is it equally important for me to help the life of someone in my immediate community, as it is to help someone living halfway across the globe? How do I value animal life?
  • Is this charity’s activity compatible with my “risk tolerance”? For some charities, there is little uncertainty around how effective they are, because their methods are proven to work and they know exactly how much $1 from you will contribute to their goals. For others, there is a bit of a gamble. Think of vaccine research, or lobbying for regulations to reverse climate change.
  • Is this charity “cash constrained”? Can they use additional money effectively, or would they not have a clear purpose if they had more?

My charity portfolio

  • GiveDirectly: I’ve always found it very unfair that I’d been born healthy in a stable family within a wealthy country, when so many others didn’t have half that luck, so I’ve been looking for ways to reduce these inequalities of opportunities. That’s exactly what GiveDirectly tries to accomplish: as the name implies, they give cash directly to populations in need, no strings attached, so that the recipients can decide for themselves how to invest in their own future. This might sound like a very counter-intuitive welfare program, but it seems to be a very effective way to lift people out of poverty. On top of that, this is providing unique research to inform the discussion on basic income.
  • StrongMinds: Their goal is to “end the depression epidemic in Africa.” Because of my own experience, I know firsthand that mental health issues can deeply affect someone’s life, to the point that they might not even want to live anymore. This has rippling effects on their family and surrounding community that can be devastating (often compounded by the fact that the illness is “invisible”). It’s also an area where market incentives rarely offer a good solution: pharmaceutical companies have a strong incentive to come up with drugs that they can continuously sell to patients, whereas forms of therapies that don’t have a good way to be monetized aren’t researched as aggressively. I am to help tilt the balance in that direction.

How much should you give?

Should you give time?

  1. To maximize your impact, you should not lose any opportunity to use your “super powers” (the things that you’re uniquely good at, or the unique networks you have access to, etc.) to make the world a better place. For instance, I think I’m particularly good at telling stories that help raise funds, so whenever I can, I try to help charities in their fundraising efforts!
  2. Giving your time is a great way to build and train your empathy and to challenge your pre-conceived beliefs on certain issues. I think that immersing yourself in difficult situations, understanding the experiences of others, and seeing first-hand how issues are being addressed will give you a broader perspective and, in turn, make you even more likely to contribute positively.
  3. You’ll set a good example for others, who might not be in a position to donate money. Even though that doesn’t apply exclusively to children, as a new mother, this is something I think about more. I want my kids to understand the value of helping others, even before they understand all the nuances involved with money as a medium for doing good.
  4. When it comes to volunteering your time, the worst that can happen is that you’ll have helped further a good cause. Even if it might not be the highest impact activity, it’s hard to argue that you did more harm than good!

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LEGO builder. Co-founder & CEO @ Front (frontapp.com)

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Mathilde Collin

Mathilde Collin

LEGO builder. Co-founder & CEO @ Front (frontapp.com)

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