Birthdays happen every year, but this year it was different. I turned 30 and decided to do something unconventional. Instead of gifts, I asked my friends and family to contribute to the fight against malaria. It turned out to be the most satisfying birthday, so far.

For the past six years, I've been involved in the effective altruism community as an organizer of a local group in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Since 2015 I've been a Giving What We Can member and have donated 10% of my income to effective charities with the hopes of improving the world.

By organizing our local group, I have encouraged others to donate to effective charities and deepened my understanding of effective altruism. But I could only get my friends to join an event now and then, and struggled to engage them more deeply with "doing good better." Then it struck me: what if I dedicated my birthday to a highly recommended charity — the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF)? Would that be a way to encourage my friends to donate?

My birthday proved to be a highly effective avenue for getting my friends involved. One week before my birthday, I started contacting friends. The message I sent highlighted the work being done by AMF and the impact that even a small contribution would have. Of course, my messages also genuinely asked how my friends were doing. This was not only a fundraiser, it was a way for me to connect to close friends and acquaintances whom I hadn't spoken to in a while.

Nearly everyone I contacted responded to my messages, and more than 70% donated to AMF! I offered to match each donation and the total amount raised was a mighty $2,875.

The best part of running a birthday fundraiser was that some of my friends really surprised me. One friend, whom I didn't see regularly and who had recently started as a junior doctor, made a $300 donation. And more than one friend asked me how to not only make a donation but how to make it a recurring one.

The birthday fundraiser was the best thing I have tried to encourage friends and family to donate. I think running a birthday fundraiser is also something you can do. If you're inspired, you can find some guidance on Giving What We Can's "How to Run a Birthday Fundraiser" page. The page even includes a tool to set a birthday reminder!

Next year, I will be doing another fundraiser for an effective charity. I might make it even more exciting by adding a challenge (for instance, I could run a mile for each donation). And — who knows? — maybe it will be an even more awesome birthday than the last one.