This profile is part of the "People of Giving What We Can" series.
We recently spoke with member Chris Carpenter from Toronto, Canada. He shared with us why he pledged 10% of the profits from his business to the world's most effective charities.
Work keeps me very busy. I’m passionate about what I do and I put my whole heart into it. As far as my story goes, I would never say I’ve had a difficult life. I feel very lucky to be born into the life I have. That being said, I have struggled to take advantage of the gifts I’ve been given. My younger life was filled with loss and battles with mental health issues and addiction.
Three and half years ago, I had alienated everyone and everything I loved, I had nowhere to live, no job and no life. I had thrown away all the gifts I’d been given: a loving family, a beautiful supportive woman, an amazing healthy daughter, and more opportunities for success than many people in the world could only dream of.
September 18th 2018 (with a ton of support from those people I alienated and some amazing therapists and counselors) I turned my life around and got sober. As I traveled further in my journey of sobriety I began to realize all those gifts I had been blind to. Along with seeing my gifts, I began to realize how many people not only don’t have access to the things I’ve taken for granted, but also live through unimaginable suffering. That has inspired me to dedicate part of my life to giving back for all the good things that I only have because of the sheer luck of the life I was born into.
My company is a renovation company. We specialize in finish carpentry and interior/exterior renovations. We maintain a high level of craftsmanship and make every attempt to make renovations a pleasant experience for our clients. I want my company to have a positive impact on the world and the construction industry. We recycle and minimize waste as much as possible, we aim to build to a high environmental standard, and I foster an inclusive and supportive work environment.
I was introduced to effective giving by Sam Harris’s podcast Making Sense. Will MacAskill’s episode about effective altruism made something click in my head. It all made so much logical sense to me — it made me feel shocked that I hadn’t seen it that way before. Then as I dug deeper into the work of Peter Singer and The Life You Can Save, it was so clear that I morally had no choice but to help those in need. It reminds me of those colourful pictures that, after you stare at it long enough, you see a 3D image within the abstract. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it.
I chose to give through the company so I could maximize the amount of money I can give. As long as my company grows (I will never stop working to grow my company), I will continue to be able to help more people every year. That, and lately I have been advertising my giving more than when I first made the pledge, through social media and through my clients. I believe that the idea of giving in silence is mistaken. I think the more you share your giving, the more others are likely to do the same. Lately I have been giving Peter Singer’s book The Life You Can Save to my clients with their invoice so they can understand what we’re about.
I care most deeply about world poverty and the suffering of children. There is so much wealth In the world that the fact that so many people have nothing is just shameful for our modern society. And children are innocent, they deserve every opportunity to become the best people they can be and the more we support them the more likely they are to be able to have a positive impact in the world.
I give to GiveWell, The Life You Can Save, Eva's Place, and The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund.
It’s so easy and fulfilling. As I said, I truly feel we are all morally obligated to help those that can’t help themselves. Open your circle of compassion to include all the people of the world. These children are exactly the same as your children, these people are the same as the people you love the most and would do anything to make happy. They feel love, they suffer, they have dreams and the desire to live a happy life just like everyone you know. I understand it’s natural to want to help those closest to you, but that basic instinct fails under scrutiny when you consider how much better the lives are of the people around you compared to those who suffer through no fault of their own.
I suggest you make a plan for giving that makes it easy. Make it automatic, like auto withdrawals or scheduled giving. Personally I assess my profits every quarter and give my 10% donation based on that. I think next year I’m going to adjust that to a yearly assessment. I’ll assess at the end of the year and set automatic monthly donations to each charity I support for the next year. Whatever you do, talk about it. Don’t give in silence. The more people see their peers giving, the more likely they are to give themselves.
I’d love to give more every single year until I’m no longer around. I don’t plan on retiring or stopping work until I can’t work anymore. I want to save as many lives as I possibly can during the course of my life. I’d like to have a positive impact on the world and the community around me. I’d like to be known as much for my giving as for the beautiful work we do as a renovation company.
This is something I’ve had some difficulty with, but I’m working on it. Some people don’t know how to respond when I talk about charity. I feel like some people think I’m boasting or acting superior, I do not feel superior to anyone. Many people think it’s great, but I hope to inspire more people to give and I’m working on the best way to do that.
It has helped me feel part of a community of like minded people that are committed to helping make the world a little better in their own ways.