Member Story: Sam Voigt

3 min read
24 Jan 2023

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

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

I’m a 28-year-old living in Cape Town and I want to see a better world.

While I have been interested in effective altruism for a couple of years now, and got career advice from 80,000 Hours last year, I'm still working out my career plans.

80,000 Hours helped me realise the breadth of the possibilities, and I spent some time examining various ideas. I am currently exploring my programming strengths — I recently got a job as a software engineer and I’d like to test my abilities in machine learning as well.

In my spare time, I enjoy playing five-a-side football and trying my best to make a decent vegan meal.

Tell us about your effective giving journey.

Before finding out about effective altruism, I was already aiming to donate ~10% of my income to charity. This was partly because I felt that others could use that money much more than I could, and partly inspired by my tithing mom. (Tithing is the concept of giving away a portion — often a tenth — of your income.) I’m not religious, but I liked the idea so much that I decided to keep it.

Still, I often found it difficult to stick to my giving goals, and my donations were not particularly effective. When I discovered EA, I felt like it was made for me — other people were contemplating (and answering) all the questions that I’d had for much of my life. I even felt ambitious for the first time in a long time.

I’m taking the pledge because I think it will help me to stick to my giving commitments.

Why do you feel inclined to give?

I think I am very privileged and I can afford to give away a decent chunk of my income. Spending more money on myself increases my life satisfaction very marginally, but donating it makes a big difference.

Which organisations do you give to (and why)?

I have donated to a few organisations; the exact breakdown changes based on how my views shift over time:

- The Long-Term Future Fund and the Patient Philanthropy Fund, which work to safeguard the future of humanity. I believe that both are capable of finding exceptionally good impact opportunities at the right moments.

- The Clean Air Task Force, which is able to prevent an impressive amount of carbon emissions. While this organisation also falls under the banner of safeguarding the long-term future, it is also helping people today by reducing air pollution.

- The Against Malaria Foundation, which has a remarkable track record of high-impact work backed by strong evidence. It is also tax-deductible for me here in South Africa, while many other EA organisations are not.

Do you ever find it difficult to give?

Definitely! Especially when I have big expenses on the horizon. One of the main reasons that I am taking the GWWC pledge, rather than simply donating independently, is to hold myself accountable to my own values. It also helps to budget for the donations ahead of time and set them up as automatic payments.

What suggestions do you have for other people considering the pledge?

The most important thing we can do with our lives is help others. We have opportunities to do so all the time — we shouldn't waste them.

What are your visions for the future?

I would love to find my EA career path. It is a process, and one worth doing slowly and deliberately!

Have you found anything to be helpful in talking to people about effective giving?

Just showing excitement. Donations can often seem like a burden or a duty, but showing the joy that comes with improving the world is, at the very least, a lot more fun at a party.