Blog Post

Member Profile: Rupal Ismin

5 min read
6 Aug 2022

This profile is part of the "People of Giving What We Can" series.


We recently spoke with Rupal Ismin from Sydney, Australia. Her motivation for taking the GWWC pledge comes in part from her grandfather, who "had the best excuse to never give, but always did." Below, Rupal shares a bit more about her grandfather's story, her approach to giving, and other ways she effects change in the world.

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

I am a 40-year-old Chicagoan who has lived in Sydney for most of the last 15 years (2 years in Berkeley CA, 1 year in Auckland). As the director of a research commercialisation centre at the University of Sydney, I get to be constantly surrounded by some of the smartest people in the world, working on creating world-positive impact.

I have a 5-year-old and a 9-year-old. We re-planted back in Sydney just before the pandemic and are working hard to be active in our community and grow solid roots. My husband (also a GWWC pledge member) and I are very physically active, love the outdoors, and live by the beach, as one typically does in Australia.

Tell us about your effective giving journey.

Since marriage, my husband Josh and I hadn’t been giving on a consistent basis, and it seems we were waiting for the “perfect cause” — a combination of an organisation we could be involved with that was also super efficient. This led to indecision paralysis.

Josh wanted to take the GWWC pledge together, as we make and execute all of our big financial decisions together, but I knew that this would lead to too much umm’ing and ahh’ing when deciding which charities to give to. We decided that taking the pledge as individuals would be better for us, and I have loved being able to make these decisions independently — it gives me a platform to investigate things that "come across my desk" and act quickly on them.

My journey with effective donating has been productive in helping me find a charitable cause to give my time to as well. I’ve now started both volunteering more and giving consistently at the same time.

Why did you take the Giving What We Can pledge?

When my husband stepped one foot in this direction (after the Sam Harris Christmas podcast), we both had motivation and enthusiasm to quickly take the pledge with little discussion. I took it to keep myself accountable and to keep my husband accountable.

I’m a little shy to say this out loud, but I feel incredibly good for having taken (and truly committed) to the pledge. I want to maximise the amount of good I feel out of my life, and boy has this pledge helped! For me, it’s clearly the right thing to do. Helping make the world a better place is a good goal to have, and one of the best ways to achieve it (for most of us) is through financial support.

I was also motivated by my grandfather’s commitment to giving. He grew up so poor in India that he often was shoeless, but still always gave 10% of his income to charity. It was his commitment from a place of much lower means (and the self-imposed pressure I felt as a result) that made me finally take the plunge and pledge.

Which organisations do you give to and why?

I took the pledge earlier this year, so I’m still working on assembling my group of nonprofits. So far, I donate to a couple of climate-oriented organisations — Climeworks, Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia, and Farmers for Climate Action, for example.

I have found that for me, choosing causes and charities is akin to angel investing in that you can scout, find a cause that you think is cool, and be involved — perhaps through learning about a particular approach or technology. Then you can contribute with the aim to maximise your ROI — the amount of good your money will do.

I recently came across Climate 200, a nonprofit helping independents get elected in Australia with three overarching tenets: climate action, integrity, and diversity. I was convinced to give when they started the pitch by stating how hacking at the limbs of a problem is much less effective than hacking at the roots — politicians that represent the will of the people (rather than representing corporate interests) are the antidote. That organisation led to many independents committed to climate change being elected in Australia in our past election.

Do you try to effect change in any other way?

My work has always been socially-minded, but after turning 40 this year, I also want to be active in a nonprofit outside of work.

Recently, I became an industry coach for Global Sisters, an awesome nonprofit in Australia that helps disenfranchised women gain financial independence through micro-businesses. I helped set up this nonprofit a few years ago, and now I’m leading a multi-week mentor group on collaboration and networking. I am also part of a group that is focused on community support for refugees arriving in Australia; as part of its pilot program, this group will be offering year-long support to a newly-arriving family.

What effective giving tips would you like to share?

Waiting to find the “perfect” nonprofit to give to leads to paralysis, which has zero impact. When I started researching “most effective nonprofits,” I came across many interesting, groundbreaking organisations. My public pledge also led to a friend reaching out about a nonprofit that she is influenced by (Climate 200, getting independents committed to climate action elected), which I have since supported. Giving What We Can has some great recommended charities as well.

Have any books, documentaries, articles or studies significantly changed the way you see giving?

Sam Harris’s podcast and talks on the Giving Pledge.

This post 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 community is comprised 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 help 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.