Today is #GivingTuesday, a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support non-profit organizations.
#GivingTuesday began in 2012 at New York’s 92nd Street Y. That year, there were more than 2,500 recognized partners from all 50 states of the U.S. Blackbaud processed over $10 million in online donations on 11/27/12 - a 53% increase when compared to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving the previous year - and more than 50 million people worldwide spread the word on social media. #GivingTuesday is a movement, not an organization. Everyone is encouraged to participate in the ways that matter to them.
We all want to help, but not all giving is created equal in the charity world, so I’m here to guide you toward the most ethical options I could find. The choices are overwhelming, the research is ever-changing, people are always in need, and it’s easy to get discouraged. When feeling overwhelmed, I find comfort in the words of Mother Teresa:
I do worry about numbers, but I think her point is that if we all help, all will be helped. Beyond the ways of giving that we’re most familiar with (food collections, soup kitchens, coat donation, bell-ringing Santas), there are options for making efficient use of monetary contributions. To me, this kind of giving seems more sustainable and (perhaps) more rewarding thanks to transparency, research, and evidence.
In pursuit of ethical giving, I’m happy to have found Give Well, a nonprofit dedicated to finding outstanding giving opportunities and publishing the details of their analysis to help donors decide where to give. To find charities that are proven, cost-effective, and scalable, Give Well conducts in-depth research to determine how much good a given program accomplishes (in terms of lives saved, lives improved, etc.) per dollar spent. Give Well is committed to extreme transparency, which you can learn more about here. Their annual research results in a small number of high-quality giving opportunities. The following are this year’s top charities:
Give Directly does just that; they directly distribute cash to very poor individuals in Kenya and Uganda.
From Give Well: Directly transferring money to poor individuals allows them to purchase that which they believe will help them most. Strong evidence indicates that cash transfers lead recipients to spend more on their basic needs (such as food) and may allow recipients to make investments with high returns, with no evidence of large increases in spending on items like alcohol or tobacco. (For more, see our full report on cash transfers.) We believe that GiveDirectly effectively distributes cash to extremely low-income individuals.
I first heard about Give Directly on NPR. It’s an intriguing idea that is proving quite successful. It’s a new idea and I think a lot of people probably feel reticent about straight-up giving money to people, but who knows better what to spend the money on than the recipient? To monitor their success, Give Directly conducts follow-up interviews and Innovations for Poverty Action has conducted a randomized control trial. You can read more about the trial and other evidence here.
While not as sexy as giving someone cash, Give Well’s remaining top charities of 2013 both address the issue of parasitic worms. These two organizations treat parasite infections in the developing world and are proven to be cost-effective and successful. However, the hard evidence for improved quality of life from deworming is yet to be proven (despite personal feelings that, should I contract a parasite, I would want said parasite removed post haste regardless of research debating its necessity). You can read more about the evidence from Give Well here.
The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) treats parasite infections in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Deworm the World Initiative treats children for parasite infections in developing countries.
*Past top charities from Give Well include:
Against Malaria Foundation provides funding for long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito net distributions in developing countries. (official site)
Nurse-Family Partnership provides nurse home visits to first-time mothers in the U.S. (official site)
Village Reach improves the systems that distribute medical supplies to rural areas in Africa, so that life-saving supplies get to those who need them. (official site)
While Give Well focuses on just a few organizations per year, GuideStar gathers and disseminates information about every single IRS-registered nonprofit organization. They organize as much information as possible about each nonprofit’s mission, legitimacy, impact, reputation, finances, programs, transparency, governance, and more into a leveled rating scale. Along with sister site, Philanthropedia, GuideStar offers neutral advice and information for more informed giving. Before you commit to a charitable organization, I suggest you check their database for ratings and reviews.
Give to Your Passion
Many people need to feel strongly about the causes they give to, and I imagine there’s a strong correlation between passion and giving. Check out Philanthropedia’s lists to make informed giving decisions by cause:
Finally, I suggest exercising conscious consumerism when you shop. By shifting your choices to ethical ones, you can help artisans and entrepreneurs make living wages and support healthy environments and communities. I’ll be talking more about this throughout the month of December and creating ethical gift guides for holiday shopping. If you are looking to shop right now, find 100+ ethical brands in my School of Ethics link.
I hope that you will participate in #GivingTuesday. Please get the word out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and any other social media you use. The more we raise awareness, the more good we can do together!
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