Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about us

What do you do, and hope to achieve?
Are you asking for us to donate money to Giving What We Can?
Do you have a religious affiliation?

Questions about giving

But giving doesn’t really work, does it?
What about climate change and the environment? Aren't they important too?
But don't we have to do more than just throw money at the problem?
Why give now, rather than later in life or in my will?
What if everyone did this? Would there be some kind of economic collapse?

Questions about membership

What would I gain from membership?
How can I become a member and make the Pledge to Give?
Why are the members' names public?
Could I become a member and not have my name published?
How can I find out more?
I'm not sure about membership yet, but would like to help. What can I do?

Questions about the pledge

What is the Pledge?
How does it work? Is it legally binding?
Why 10%?
What do you mean by income?
What about students / the unemployed / the retired?
Which organisations are the most effective?
Can I donate to charities working in other areas?
What is the Further Pledge?

Questions about us

What do you do, and hope to achieve?

About Us

Our goal is to play our part in eliminating poverty in the developing world. Our members all commit to this goal by pledging to give 10% of their income to the most effective charities working in the area.

When we say “most effective”, we mean the charities which do as much good as possible with our donations. Some charities are as much as 1,000 times as effective as others, and we use the best research to determine recommendations that are among the most effective charities in the world. This has the additional benefit of putting pressure on aid organizations themselves to become more effective in order to attract our donations.

We provide support and a sense of community for those who are serious about giving, we challenge each other to give more, and we challenge governments by showing that people really do want more action on this serious issue.

Are you asking for us to donate money to Giving What We Can?

No, we aren’t. We are asking you to commit to giving to other charities which you believe will do the most good for the world's poor. We are not competing with charities or other NGOs, but are playing a complementary role.

We do of course have our running costs, and accept donations but we are focussed on getting people to donate to our recommended charities.

Do you have a religious affiliation?

No. Giving What We Can is an alliance of people both religious and non-religious, united in the belief that where we can relieve suffering without having to make serious sacrifices, we should do so. It is a belief supported by many traditions and ethics, both religious and otherwise.

Questions about giving

But giving doesn’t really work, does it?

Actually, giving to the right charities can do an incredible amount of good. Have a look at our page on Myths About Aid for answers to the following questions:

  • Do we already spend enough on foreign aid, and does it do any good?
  • Is the problem too big for us to have any impact?
  • Should we focus on our own countries rather than the developing world?
  • Is aid useless due to corruption?
  • Does aid make the problems worse by encouraging dependence and overpopulation?
  • Should we be focussed on political action instead?

What about climate change and the environment? Aren't they important too?

Environmental issues like climate change are undeniably important. Climate change seems set to cause severe suffering in the world, and this burden will fall disproportionately upon the world's poorest people.

Fighting climate change is therefore one way of preventing suffering in the developing world. However research and experience has shown that it is very expensive to make any headway in the fight against climate change and its effects, and so it does not appear to us to be among the most effective ways to do good. If however you sincerely believe that it is, then you could spend your pledged money fighting climate change.

For more information, our conclusions are set out in depth on this page: Climate change

But don't we have to do more than just throw money at the problem?

Yes, absolutely. Giving What We Can emphasizes that we must do more than just give: we must give effectively. We need to look at the data and donate our money carefully. It can be the difference between saving a life and saving 1,000 lives.

Intervention needs to be sustainable, and care needs to be taken to ensure that aid gets to those who need it. That is why our recommended charities are carefully assessed to ensure that they are effective and do long-term good.

We are not saying that donating is all that can be done. Political change could have an incredible effect, but it will take a long time to shift attitudes, meaning that change will take a while to come. In the meantime, there are lives that can be saved and diseases that can be cured.

Why give now, rather than later in life or in my will?

There are a number of reasons to give while you earn, rather than leaving it until later:

  • It is all too easy to put off giving and never quite get around to doing so. Giving while you earn is a way to seize the bull by the horns.
  • If you give while you are still earning, your gifts are tax deductible. This means that the government effectively gives more to the same cause. This is not applicable if you wait until you have finished earning.
  • The money you give has long term benefits to the communities which receive it. Curing someone of disease today means that they will be able to contribute much more to their society and its economy from now on, increasing the effectiveness of your donation. In effect, donating earlier does more good more quickly than donating later.
  • If you give as you earn and join Giving What We Can, you can contribute to a larger movement towards the elimination of poverty. This will help foster a culture of giving, and send a message to our governments that we care about poverty in the developing world.

What if everyone did this? Would there be some kind of economic collapse?

We sometimes get asked whether decreased consumption due to charitable giving might lead to an economic collapse in the developed world and thus make us less able to help others or ourselves.

The fact is that this just isn’t going to happen. We give 10% (or more) because so many in the developed world give nothing or very little. If everyone in the developed world were to start giving, we would each only need to give about 1% of our income in order to eliminate extreme poverty! If ever we get close to that situation, we will happily revise the proportion required by the Pledge.

Questions about membership

What would I gain from becoming a member?

As a charitable movement, Giving What We Can is focussed on helping those in the most need, rather than benefiting ourselves.

However, taking the pledge can help to make giving easier and more rewarding: Many members find that setting the size of their year's donations in advance makes it easier to give, and feel encouraged by the knowledge that their donations are going to the most effective poverty relief charities in the world. And by joining us, you can be part of the movement for change in the world.

How do I become a member?

In order to do this you need to take the Pledge. For more information, please go to our joining page.

Why are the members' names public?

Giving What We Can is unusual among charities in maintaining a public list of members. We do this because we see it as an effective way of publicising the cause, like a petition or public demonstration. By publicly showing our commitment to give we hope to challenge others to join us, and to help create a culture where giving is a normal and expected part of everyone’s life.

Being open about our giving also helps us to stick to our commitments and to forge a sense of community. We are certainly not interested in boasting about giving, but we believe that the benefits of modesty are outweighed by the benefits of making a public stand.

Could I become a member and not have my name published?

We feel that it is important that membership be public for the reasons set out above. Our list of members only displays name and occupation, and no contact details or private information.

However if this really is a barrier preventing you from joining us, please contact us and we should be able to accommodate you in keeping your details private.

How can I find out more?

Most of the information should be available on this website. For more about the Pledge, see our joining page. For more information into our recommended charities, see How We Assess Charities and Recommended Charities. Also please check out our blog for news of our ongoing work. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

I'm not sure about becoming a member yet, but would like to help. What can I do?

If you’re not prepared to commit to giving 10%, why not sign up with us to Try Giving? This allows you to set a percentage of your income to give, and how long you want to give it for.

Otherwise, we would encourage you to visit our recommended charities page and give what you feel you can to them. Also please sign up to our blog’s RSS feed for up to date information about our work.

Questions about the pledge

What is the Pledge?

The Pledge is a public commitment to give 10% of your income to organisations dedicated to fighting global poverty.

For more information: Join Us.

How does it work? Is it legally binding?

The pledge is not a contract and is not legally binding. It is, however, a public declaration of lasting commitment to the cause. It is a promise, or oath, to be made seriously and with every expectation of keeping it. All those who want to become e member of Giving What We Can must make the Pledge and report their income and donations each year.

If someone decides that they can no longer keep the pledge (for instance due to serious unforeseen circumstances), then they can simply cease to be a member. They can of course rejoin later if they renew their commitment. Obviously taking the pledge is something to be considered seriously, but we understand if a member can no longer keep it.

Why 10%?

We chose 10% because it strikes a good balance. It is a significant proportion of one's income, in recognition of the importance of the problem and the need to take real action. But it is also within reach of most people in the developed world.

There is also a strong historical connection to the idea of tithing, a tradition in Judaism and Christianity of giving 10% of your income to charity or the Church. Islam has a similar practice (zakat) in which those who are able give between 2.5 and 20% to the poor and needy.

The pledge is of course just a minimum. Some members decide to go further than this and pledge to give a higher percentage, such as 20% or even 50%.

What do you mean by income?

By income, we mean your gross salary or wages, prior to income tax being deducted. So if you earn $30,000 a year before tax, you would be required to give at least $3,000. Depending on your country and choice of charity, your donation may be tax deductible, making the real cost of giving 10% less than it first appears.

What about students / the unemployed / the retired?

Many students, unemployed people and full-time parents have little or no income, but are largely supported by money from family members, the government or a student loan.

The Pledge does not require you to donate any of this additional funding (although it does commit you regarding any future income). However, in the interests of all of our members giving what they can, we feel that the spirit of the Pledge requires them to donate at least 1% of their spending money.

We define spending money as money received for the purpose of spending on items such as food, rent, travel, children, or personal items. It does not include spending on tuition fees. If a couple with shared finances both wish to join, then they can simply donate 10% of their combined earnings and not worry about spending money.

People who have retired or partially retired (which we roughly define as having started to draw a pension) can join Giving What We Can and remain members for as long as they continue to donate at least 10% of their spending money (as defined above).

Which organisations are the most effective?

The Pledge commits you to donate to the charity or charities that you believe can best use it to eliminate suffering in the developing world. Some charities aim to do this directly, through medical or food aid; some do so indirectly by fighting the root causes of poverty via education or local governance; some do so at an even higher level by lobbying for fairer trade or more foreign aid.

You are free to support charities operating at any level, so long as you sincerely believe that they offer the most effective way to eliminate the hardships of life in extreme poverty. By focusing our attention on charities that have proven themselves most effective, we can achieve much more with our donations and encourage charities to become more effective to receive our donations.

We have specific recommendations about the charities we believe to be the most effective: Recommended Charities.

Can I donate to charities working in other areas?

There is absolutely nothing stopping you from giving additional money to charities working in other areas. However this cannot be counted towards the 10%.

What is the Further Pledge?

Some of our members wish to go beyond the standard Pledge of 10%. They therefore choose to make the Further Pledge, nominating an annual amount they believe can provide for them and pledging to give everything above that to charities they believe will do the most good. This is in addition to the standard Pledge, and is entirely voluntary. We do not attempt to push our members into taking the Further Pledge: It is simply another way to give that some people prefer.

The Further Pledge