Frequently Asked Question

Why don’t you recommend charities working on my favourite cause?


There is no shortage of problems in the world, and they all deserve attention. However, we believe that because resources are limited, it’s important to triage when determining what to tackle first. Some problems are both larger and easier to solve than others, and we think resources should be directed to these until they’re no longer “low-hanging fruit.”

Consider this metaphor: With so much suffering in the world, each of us who wants to help is akin to a firefighter — with multiple fires burning all around them. Some are very large (affecting many people) and some are smaller (affecting fewer people). Some are easy to fight and some just seem to spread and spread no matter what you do. Given this difficult reality, which fire would you fight first?

Would you choose a fire that is:

  1. Easy to fight; affecting few people
  2. Hard to fight; affecting few people
  3. Easy to fight; affecting a great many people
  4. Hard to fight; affecting a great many people

Most people would likely agree that it makes sense to choose C — a large fire that is also easy to fight — before you tackle the others. If you instead begin by fighting a small and difficult to fight fire, you might use up all your resources and not actually do very much good. All the fires would continue to burn, and the people you could have helped by putting your resources towards Fire C would instead be consumed by flames while you unsuccessfully fought fire B.

Usually, people are motivated to donate to a particular cause because of something in their personal experience, something heard through a friend or the media, or in-depth knowledge about a particular subject. While it’s natural and admirable to want to do something about the problems we hear about, it’s also important to recognise that for every issue we hear about, there are countless more that we might not. Yet suffering is still happening just the same. The fires are still burning, and the ones we tend to hear about the most aren’t necessarily those where we can make the biggest difference. Consider that issues like global poverty have ceased to become newsworthy — despite the fact that 15,000 children still die every day from diseases that can be prevented with low-cost (but perpetually underfunded) interventions.

We try to work on the fires where we can have the most impact (though they may not always be quite as straightforward as Fire C).

Still have questions?

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