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Effective Altruism: How to Give Well (In 3 Steps)

Arthur Worsley
by Arthur Worsley
M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.
4 MINUTE READ

Looking for a quick guide on how to give money to charity?

You’re in the right place!

Here’s what you’ll find on this page…

Doing Good Feels Good

I’ve been thinking a lot about charity.

Doing good feels good. It makes me happy. It fills me with meaning and purpose. And studies show that that’s true of anyone who donates time or money.

And yet I’ve donated shockingly little of my wealth in the time I’ve been alive.

Which makes me sad.

And got me wondering both why and how I can do something about it.

It’s been eye-opening and valuable so here are my thoughts on giving well.

But Giving Is Hard

I found four poor excuses reasons for not giving generously in the past:

  • It’s not something I grew up with;
  • I worry that I don’t have enough money for myself;
  • I’m worried about wasting my donations; and
  • I don’t have a system that makes it easy.

Those may not all apply to you, but if you’re anything like me, there’s a good chance at least one will stick.

The good news? They’re all fairly easy to work through.

In fact, just writing out 1 and 2 helped me realise they were nonsense.

And once I’d stated 3 and 4, it became much easier to design a solution.

Here’s How To Make Giving Easy

So here’s how I’ve made giving easy:

  1. I set up a new bank account;
  2. I set up automatic payments for 10% of my rough monthly income from my main account to my new account at the start of each month; and
  3. I set a repeating mid-month action in my productivity system to give:
    • 1/3 to GiveWell’s top charity;
    • 1/3 to a top charity in a cause that I’m passionate about; and
    • 1/3 to people/causes directly around me.

Some quick detail on each step…

Why a new bank account? I rarely miss money that’s not in my main account. If it’s not there I don’t think about it which makes it easier to budget what’s left.

Why 10%? Tithing (giving one-tenth of your income to your church) isn’t a new idea. It seemed like a meaningful amount so I just cribbed this from thousands of years of tradition.

“Wait! Should I give 10%? Pre- or post-tax? What if my income is variable?”

I suggest starting with whatever feels doable, trying the system for a month or two and adjusting your numbers accordingly.

Why that donation allocation? I had two goals for my giving:

  1. Do the most good – Getting maximum impact-per-dollar; and
  2. Feel the most good – Seeing my donations change lives.

Thanks to organisations like GiveWell or The Life You Can Save, my head knows that malaria prevention in Africa is the most cost-effective way to save lives.

But I also care deeply about climate and education.

And there’s no arguing with how my heart feels when I physically see lives changing for people or in communities directly around me.

The 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 allocation is the best way I could think of to optimise for both goals; to make sure I was both doing good AND feeling good in the process.

Who to Give Money To

For the first tier of donations (maximum impact) – I recommend checking out organisations like GiveWell or The Life You Can Save. Few others do as much work to find the best ways to save maximum lives.

For the middle tier of donations (impact + feel-good) – Google is your friend. A quick search for “best climate charities” or “best animal charities” will reward you with multiple effective altruism (giving well) organisations in your niche.

For the third tier (maximum feel-good) – Just knowing you have money to give will inspire you to find ways to deploy it. Keep your eyes sharp and your ears peeled. Don’t be afraid to give cash on an impulse and reclaim it from your sink-fund later on. You’ll be amazed how many opportunities you’ll discover to do good on your door-step when you’ve earmarked the means to follow through.

Bonus Tip: Giving Squared

As a bonus tip, if (like me) you’re someone who’s impossible to buy gifts for you can now ask friends and family to either send money to your new charity account or give directly on your behalf to one of the charities you support.

Instead of getting nothing, or stuff you don’t care about, you now have the option to let your loved ones give you something you can ALL feel good about.

Here’s What You Need to Do Next

I’m sharing these thoughts with you today for two reasons:

First – I’d LOVE YOUR perspective – If you’re in the mood, email me and tell me how YOU think about giving back. My system’s still open to changes and I’m fascinated to hear your perspective.

Second – I wanted to share what’s worked for me.

So often in life, the difference between action and never-getting-round-to-it is 30-minutes of thinking on paper. 30-minutes we rarely find till too late.

And I don’t believe I’m the only person out there who wanted or felt they should be give more but just didn’t know how to get started.

So here’s my 30-minutes of thinking.

I hope it helps. I’m excited to hear how you think about this stuff.

And until next time, be awesome, be generous and go well.

Arthur Worsley
I founded TAoL to discover and share the best wisdom on how to live long and prosper. Before that I studied Psychology, Philosophy & Physiology at Oxford and consulted at McKinsey. Still curious? Learn more or take my FREE productivity quiz.

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