History

“I realised that my money would do vastly more good for others than it could for me and decided to make a commitment to donating to the most effective charities I could find. Many people contacted me asking how they could do this as well, and so I set up Giving What We Can.”
- Toby Ord

Giving What We Can is the brainchild of Toby Ord, a philosopher at Balliol College, Oxford. Inspired by the ideas of ethicists Peter Singer and Thomas Pogge, Toby decided in 2009 to commit a large proportion of his income to charities that effectively alleviate poverty in the developing world. Discovering that many of his friends and colleagues were interested in making a similar pledge, he worked with fellow Oxford philosopher Will MacAskill to create an international organization of people who would donate a significant proportion of their income to cost-effective charities.

Giving What We Can launched in November 2009, attracting significant media attention. Within a year, 64 people had joined the society, their pledged donations amounting to $21M. Initially run on a volunteer basis, Giving What We Can took on full-time staff in the summer of 2012. In October 2013, we launched The Giving What We Can Trust, through which members and non-members can easily donate to our recommended charities. In May this year, we celebrated reaching over 1000 members, together pledging more than $400M.

Giving What We Can has been the flagship for a growing network of like-minded organisations focused on effective altruism, the art of thinking critically about how to do the most good. We share offices with 80,000 Hours, an organization founded by Will MacAskill to provide advice and research on ethical careers. Giving What We Can and 80,000 Hours are incorporated under the Centre for Effective Altruism, a registered charity in England and Wales. Other organizations associated with the effective altruist movement include Animal Charity Evaluators, GiveWell, and the Life You Can Save. A TED talk on effective altruism by Peter Singer has attracted more than a million views since it first went online in 2013. This year has seen several books published on the subject, including Doing Good Better by Will MacAskill, and The Most Good you Can Do by Peter Singer.

Our aim is to build a community of people united in their commitment to donate at least 10% of their income to the most effective charities in the world. In doing this, we ultimately want to see an end to extreme poverty in this lifetime.

Giving What We Can is extremely grateful for the support provided by the following organisations over the past five years:

  • The Future of Humanity Institute
    The Future of Humanity Institute is the leading research center looking at big-picture questions for human civilization.
  • Balliol College, Oxford
    Balliol is one of the oldest Oxford colleges, with a strong philosophical tradition and a history of radical thought.
  • The Oxford Uehiro Centre
    The Oxford Uehiro Centre encourages and supports debate and deeper reflection on practical ethics.