Blog post

Member Profile: Sonya and Carl Christensen

3 min read
22 Apr 2021

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


Meet Sonya and Carl Christensen, philanthropists and members of Giving What We Can. They have been married for 53 years.

Sonya and Carl have given away at least 10% of their income for many years. It began when they were working in the Peace Corps and making more money than they needed to live comfortably. Sonya's generosity was perhaps inspired by her father, who had an enduring interest in helping others through charity. Now that Sonya and Carl's children are grown (and they have seven grandchildren!), the couple hopes to increase their giving:

"In the last few years we are trying to reach 50% as the children are grown, our house is paid for and we live simply."

Sonya is a retired librarian and Carl is a social worker in private practice. Both spend significant time volunteering. Currently, Sonya is doing taxes for low-income and older adults. After tax day, she will shift her focus to community gardening and education. With help from friends and neighbours, Sonya maintains seven gardens and created a "Pocket Park" in an overrun city block at the end of their street. Sonya and Carl also love to travel as volunteers, though travel has been on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. In January, they hope to travel to Cuba with Global Volunteers.

Sonya and Carl give to a variety of organisations, including Evidence Action, GiveDirectly, the Against Malaria Foundation, and more. They direct the majority of their donations towards the causes they are most passionate about: global poverty and education. They make the majority of their giving decisions each fall, taking care to allocate their giving according to their priorities and ensuring that a substantial portion goes overseas.

"I never find it difficult to give. It can be difficult to decide to which causes to give and to get information about them or ideas of what is most useful."

Sonya uses a wide range of materials to inform her giving. She learned about effective altruism and GiveWell from The Christian Science Monitor. She reads extensively about philanthropy and enjoyed William MacAskill's Doing Good Better and Peter Singer's The Most Good You Can Do. She joined the Giving What We Can community to learn more about the charities supported by like-minded philanthropists.

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.