Blog post

Why I took the Giving What We Can Pledge - John Yan

2 min read
21 Jan 2021

For many of us the Pledge is a way of taking something we believe and “making it official”. John Yan shared with us how this process happened for him, and why he thinks this was an important thing for him to do. You can read more about John's decision to pledge on his blog.


The idea of wanting to help, and that there were people in need, wasn’t new for John. But like many of us, it took some time to work out how to integrate this into his life as an adult.

“When I was a boy, I dreamed of becoming a super-genius inventor. I’d become ultra-rich and then use all my wealth to help those who needed it the most. Then I grew up and learned Bill Gates already sort of did that.
I grew up some more and learned about Effective Altruism, 80,000 Hours, Giving What We Can, and all these adjacent organizations.
I remember feeling inspiration and joy knowing I wasn’t alone in this activism.
And yet, it wasn’t until after college that I started to make it a greater part of my life. I started consuming the literature - I read the books, listened to the podcasts, browsed the forums, and went to the meetups”

Nearly four years later, John has a comfortable, stable job. Looking back through the lens of his values he decided it was time to make a stronger commitment.

“I’ve learned a lot, and donated to effective charities. But I still recognize that I’m more reciting the convincing points made by the effective altruism community than I am integrating it into my life. I could talk about living my values and flowery principles, but at the end of the day I saw taking the pledge as putting my money where my mouth is. I believe I can exchange a small bit of my own welfare for that of others, at a tremendous rate, and I believed this before I met anyone else that did.
To me, the pledge is a gesture of commitment and accountability that manifests that. I hope to look back on this as one of the proudest things I’ve ever done.”

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 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.

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.