Blog post

Do something incredible this New Year

4 min read
14 Dec 2015

A group of students has got together to take the Giving What We Can pledge this New Year's. If you would like to take the opportunity to join, or just to support the campaign and Giving What We Can, check out and share the facebook event! You can become a Giving What We Can member here. And please watch and share the amazing video our Cambridge chapter made about why you should take the pledge.

Almost everyone dreams of doing something good for the world. However, it is a sad fact that for us westerners, living in a dreamy bubble so far away away from the pain and suffering we wish to eliminate, it is incredibly difficult to motivate ourselves to act on our altruistic desires. Unless you happen to be fantastically conscientious and aware, you will need to remind yourself daily that the suffering we sometimes see through little screens does actually exist for some people in a terribly real sense.

I’m one of those who needs some sort of motivation to give altruistically, some sort of reminder that ensures that giving becomes normal rather than exceptional. The Giving What We Can pledge reminds us not only of what we believe is right, but to do what we believe is right. I hope that for me it can penetrate the money-grabbing distractions that surround us every day as part of the bubble that is western life.

This is what makes the pledge so perfect for me (and, I hope, for us all).** Giving is something that we should all be doing.** In fact, even though giving is considered exceptional (and optional) by the vast majority of our society, I think it is a moral obligation on the same level of paying tax.

The pledge tells us to forget the idea that not helping some of the most desperate people on the planet is a morally viable option, and forces us to see it as an obligation - exactly what it is for the (relatively) rich. And all of us in the western world are rich compared to most people in the world: someone earning the average UK salary (£26,500) is in the richest 3% of the world’s people, and could save a life every year by taking the pledge.

The other major principle upon which the pledge is founded is the idea that some charities are much better than others. Even if we give all the time, we give significant proportions of our income and we do so as a matter of course, it’s difficult to know that we’re actually making a difference. Since becoming acquainted with effective altruism, I have been more and more concerned about the effects of what I do – and in particular about the effects of my donations. There are too many charities out there, too many causes, to figure out for myself what the best way of donating is.

Giving What We Can provides the guidance I need to maximise the effect of my altruistic efforts, and encourages members to donate in a reflective way and taking into account the best available evidence. By giving to the very best charities, we can be sure that our donations are making a real difference. And making giving less stressful, less uncertain, is surely a huge step towards making it a normal part of life.

This may seem like too large a commitment for an 18-year-old who has had nothing more than a cashier job. But this is precisely the right time for me to take the Giving What We Can pledge. I can step into the work world knowing that 10% of what I earn is going to charity, as certainly as I know that some will be taken by the tax man. It’s another step to making giving a habitual and moral obligation.

When I really think that I may be, in this moment, making the decision to give (over my lifetime) an enormous amount to help people so desperately in need they can’t be sure of their next meal or of their health, I do not feel scared but hopeful. I know that I am taking a step that will help many people who were not lucky enough to be born in a country like the UK, and help correct the deep injustices that make some so much poorer than others. Taking the pledge is, I hope, about making altruism my new normal. It’s not about sacrifice. It is my declaration that I will do my bit, I will not let my selfishness get in the way. Will you join me?