There is a huge amount of suffering in the world, and over the course of your life, you may find yourself donating to charity to try to improve the world. Firstly, congratulations! Donating is a wonderful thing to do, and I think you’ll agree it gives you a warm feeling inside. However, when we donate, it’s often hard to know how the money is being spent, and whether it’s doing the most good it can do.
Here are a few tips to help you think about donating in a smart and effective way:
Give donations as gifts
How many gifts have you gotten that you’ve never used, or have just taken up space in your cupboards or wardrobe? Why not start a trend among your friends and begin gifting donations for birthdays and Christmas? Many charities will provide your friend or family member with follow-up pictures and videos, which makes it a far more rewarding gift than jewellery or clothes.
Local or international charities
It can be tempting to only donate to national charities or ones that you might have a personal connection to. Many people, after losing a loved one to cancer, will donate to a cancer charity, or perhaps set up their own. But there are also many international charities that are also worth donating to. Donating money to charities that distribute bed nets to prevent malaria can have a big impact. Ensuring that a child sleeps under a bed net costs only $5 (€4.52), and yet tens of millions of children in sub-Saharan Africa still don’t have these nets.
If you can, donate a percentage of your income
GiveWell is a website that looks at the value for money of various charities, and I highly recommend it for learning how to make your donations go further. Their current estimate for the most cost-effective charity for saving lives is the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF). A donation of €3,000 to AMF will, on average, save a life. The average income of an Irish household is about €45,000, meaning that if the average family donated 7% of their income, they would, on average, save a life per year. If everyone in Dublin donated this amount, it would save hundreds of thousands of lives a year.
I’m a member of an organisation called Giving What We Can, which encourages its members to pledge 10% of their income to highly effective charities over the course of their lives. For students in full-time education, we ask you to donate just 1% of your disposable income. We think this is a very reasonable amount, and, if you over 18, I highly recommend you take the pledge on our website: https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/pledge/.
If you are under 18, make sure you discuss this with your parent/guardian first. However, I promise, you will barely notice any small changes in lifestyle (if at all), and, with time, you’ll notice how much donations improve your life as well as the lives of others.
If you want any advice about how much to give, or are uncertain about what causes are most effective, check out GiveWell: https://www.givewell.org/