Doing Good: Not all donations are created equal

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Doing Good
Visit the Giving What We Can website

CLICK THIS SNAPSHOT FROM THE “GIVING WHAT WE CAN” WEBSITE to visit this project founded by moral philosopher Dr Toby Ord in November 2009.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: This week, Gayle Campbell is exploring the ways we think we’re doing good. Here is the second of her five parts …

$335 billion—it’s the dollar amount Americans gave to charity in 2013. A Gallup poll from the same year found 83 percent of Americans say they donated money in the past year. In yesterday’s post, we examined the ALS ice bucket challenge, which has brought in over $53 million in 10 weeks.

One thing is clear: Plenty of us are giving. But how much good is our giving really doing?

That’s the question Dr. Toby Ord, a researcher in moral philosophy at Oxford University, posed—not just for Americans but for charitable givers worldwide—nearly five years ago when he founded an organization called Giving What We Can. It’s part of a movement called effective giving, and it’s aimed at helping donors maximize the social impact of their giving. (Wikipedia also provides an overview of the project.)

Instead of focusing on typical charity evaluator metrics like overhead cost, organizations like Giving What We Can and Brookyln-based GiveWell, assess charities’ effectiveness based on the number of lives their interventions can improve or save.

Take helping the blind, for example: A $40,000 donation to fight blindness, Ord points out, is much more effective when used for $20 surgeries that reverse the effects of trachoma in Africa than it would be to provide guide dogs to blind people in the U.S. The former, Ord argues, helps cure more than 2,000 people of blindness, while the latter helps one person overcome the challenges of blindness—a 99.95% value difference.

The difference in where we give our money could mean the difference in thousands of lives.

We want to hear from you!

When was the last time you made a donation? Maybe it was to the ALS Foundation!
How did you decide on your charity of choice? Do you know your donation is making an impact?
Does Ord’s research inspire you to reconsider your giving methodology? Or do you see gaps in his thinking?


You know what to do! Use those blue-“f” Facebook icons and other social-media buttons to invite friends to read along with you this week!

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