Blog post

Member Profile: Henry Howard

6 min read
Feb 16, 2022
This profile is part of the "People of Giving What We Can" series.

We recently spoke with Henry Howard from Australia. He shared with us his effective giving story, including what motivates him to give, what issues he cares about the most, and his vision for the future.

Tell us about yourself. What keeps you busy, and what makes you tick?

I work as a junior doctor in Australia. I want to help the people who need it most, and I want to do it in a way that's effective. I hope I can remind others around me that we can think beyond just ourselves.

I'm interested in the intersection of medicine and computing. I think creativity and entrepreneurship can solve problems, and I want to create tools that improve patient care by solving some of the problems I've seen in my time as a doctor. I hope I can be involved in creating useful new technologies while generating money for charity along the way.

Tell us about your effective giving journey.

I was raised to believe that the goal of life is to make the world better for everyone, not just ourselves.

While looking into how I could be most useful for the world, I discovered the ideas of effective altruism through Peter Singer and his organisation The Life You Can Save. I was attracted to the idea that charities that focus on neglected issues like malaria, schistosomiasis, malnutrition, and vaccine-preventable disease are several times more cost-effective than the usual charities I saw advertised on TV. I then started taking part in fundraising activities during medical school to raise money for effective charities.

When I finally started earning a salary in my first year working as a doctor in 2021, I decided to dedicate 50% of my first year's income to charity. I wanted to make a statement on how much even junior doctors could give if we really wanted to, without sacrificing much of our own quality of life. I gave $53,441.51 (AUD) to charities during my first year of work. It was deeply fulfilling: my donations likely saved many lives and improved many more, and I hope I inspired others to think about using their privilege to help those in need.

I took the 10% Giving What We Can pledge at the start of 2021. I plan to give 10% of my income for the rest of my life.

Why do you give? What motivated you to give originally?

I'm driven by the inequality I see in the world. So much of a person's quality of life depends on where a person is born and who their parents are. I think this is the moral crisis of our time. I want to use my luck in the birth lottery to give back to people who haven't been as lucky as me and make the world a more equal-opportunity place.

Through practicing medicine I can help people, but through giving part of my income to charity I can help maybe 100 times as many people. Giving part of my income to charity just makes sense. It helps people through the work of those charities, it inspires others, it encourages a culture of selflessness and trust, and it's deeply fulfilling to me.

I often think about what our descendants will believe were the mistakes of our time. I think the inequality of opportunity in the world is something they'll shake their heads at. I want to do everything I can to help.

Why did you take the Giving What We Can pledge?

Making a clear statement about giving is important. It normalises giving among those around you, and it gets people to think about issues they might not otherwise think about. Signing the pledge is a clear statement that I'm willing to give up a little to make the world a lot better. The fact that 7,000 other people have signed this pledge sends a message that if we do decide to give, we're not alone.

What are the issues in the world that you care most deeply about?

The median daily wage in Madagascar is about US$1.12 a day. The median daily wage in Australia is about US$49. Doctors make a lot more than that. The circumstances of our birth determine almost everything about our quality of life.

Which organizations do you give to (and why)?

I gave to a large number of organisations over 2021. I gave the most to those highly cost-effective, evidence-based charities targeting neglected issues like malaria, parasitic worm infection, and malnutrition. I also give to local charities, journalism, the arts, and to social movements, all of which are valuable causes, and many of which have impacts that are difficult to quantify.

Do you ever find it difficult to give?

Some people aren't supportive of giving. They believe that giving is ineffective, or that it's a way to make others feel guilty, or that it's too depressing to think about the world's problems, or that we have no moral obligation to think about the world's problems.

Giving in the face of discouragement can be difficult. I listen to feedback very carefully. I've never heard a convincing argument for why we shouldn't give to charity.

Do you try to effect change in any other way?

People who embody kindness, trust, generosity in their day-to-day life are what make the world go round. I try to embody these attributes every day. I also think very carefully about how I can use my career to create positive change in the world.

What effective giving tips would you like to share?

I found that donating through The Life You Can Save allowed me to claim many donations as tax-deductible. Many organisations aren't tax-deductible in Australia. This let me give more to charity than I might have otherwise.

Make noise about your donating. Giving quietly is very noble, but giving loudly spreads the word, normalises giving, and agitates positive social change. Advertising your giving can feel obnoxious and indulgent, but it also probably leads to the best outcomes.

What suggestions do you have for other people considering the pledge? Make sure you understand your budget. I track every cent I've earned or spent for the past 5 years. This let me tell very easily how much I could afford to give.

What is your vision for the future?

I dream of a world where a person's success is based on how creative and hard-working they are, not on what country they were born in and who their parents are.

This interview is part of the “People of Giving What We Can" series which profiles a selection of the Giving What We Can community. The Giving What We Can is a community of people from all walks of life, with different perspectives and motivations for giving – all united by their desire to make a significant commitment to use their income to effectively helping others. Read more member stories. Share your effective giving story to help inspire others to give more, and more effectively.

For more information about Giving What We Can we recommend you check out our frequently asked questions, our effective giving recommendations, our giving pledges, and our homepage.