There are many ways in which we can have a large impact through our donations, and the effective altruism movement is continually searching for and evaluating the most promising opportunities. Looking at global poverty offers one example of how well-targeted donations can have a hugely positive impact.
The scale of poverty is immense, and it is easy to think that we in the developed world are powerless to do anything about it. However, the facts tell a very different story.
Official estimates from the United Nations Human Development Report, along with other sources like the World Bank, show just how unequally split the spending, income and health figures are for countries around the world:
These figures show just how unequal the global distribution of wealth is. However, they also suggest that those of us who live in affluent countries could have great potential to help others through our resources.
Maybe you don’t give much to charity, but feel like you should. Maybe you’ve been put off by scare stories about donations going to waste due to political corruption or poor planning. Or maybe you haven’t thought much about what your donations could achieve.
If any of this applies to you, our message is simple: It’s good to give generously, but it’s just as important to give effectively. The difference in effectiveness - the good done per dollar donated - between different charities can be startling.
For an example of the difference that effectiveness can make, suppose we want to help people suffering from blindness:
And there are even more effective ways to give, which can transform the lives of hundreds of people. If a typical US citizen gave 10% of his or her income to the right NGOs, then every year they could:
Over the course of a lifetime we could leave an incredible legacy of diseases prevented or cured, and lives extended. We can do all of this without leaving our countries, without changing our careers, and within our means.
At Giving What We Can we feel compelled by these facts to take action. That’s why we've each made a public pledge to give at least 10% of our incomes to the organisations we believe will do the most good in the world. Whatever our incomes, we will all have a tremendous effect on thousands of lives.
If you're ready to start making a huge impact, you can join us today by committing to give 10% of your income to effective organisations (1% of the spending money for students and people who have little or no income). Alternatively, you can start with Try Giving, and choose how much of your income to give, and for how long.