I’ve always wanted to help others and donating to charity is probably the easiest way to do that.The general consensus seems to be that it just isn’t feasible to donate a large proportion of your income to charity, especially in the difficult economic climate at the moment.
I disagree with that.
I earn a decent, but very modest wage which is several thousand pounds below the UK average, and I donate slightly over 10% of that to charity. I have the advantage that I have always been frugal with my money and charitable giving has been part of my life since my first part time jobs. I even donated a proportion of my student loan when I was a ‘poor’ student. Now that I’m working full time I’m donating much larger amounts, but I’m also earning more so I feel wealthier than ever.
It was only recently, perhaps in the last couple of years that I really started thinking about which charities were best to donate to. When I read a BBC article about Giving What We Can and did some research into cost-effective giving it was a massive eye opener. It is astonishing that in such a generous country, where so many people give so much money, that so few people feel they understand which charities are the most cost-effective or best to give their money to. People will always be driven to give to causes that are close to their hearts or have touched them personally, but there can be huge differences between even similar charities in terms of the good that you can achieve by donating.
By donating 10% of my income I can save lives with money that I don't need. There is nothing I could spend my pledge money on that would give me the sense of satisfaction or well being that I experience through giving. Supporting the most cost-effective charities has got me into work on Monday mornings when the prospect of stacking shelves, painting railings or calling customers didn't ignite me with passion.
I am still able to do all of the things I love despite my pledge, including attending football games and going out for Indian food. I have just spent the Easter Weekend in the Lake District and I’m going on holiday abroad twice this summer. When I look at how much money I have to spend each month, I simply don’t factor in the money I give to charity, in much the same way as I don’t count money I know will go to the tax man.
In addition to my pledge I also fundraise for charity around once a year. In May 2012 I ran the Edinburgh Marathon to raise awareness for Giving What We and money for Schistosomiasis Control Initiative; 6 months after having open heart surgery.
I could give more than I do, but I've found a level of giving that I am at peace with and can maintain. I would really like to help people realise that regular cost-effective giving (at whatever percentage the individual is comfortable with, be that 10% or 1%) can make a phenomenal difference to those who need it without requiring a complete lifestyle change.