About a year ago, when thinking about the charitable giving which is so common this time of year, I made it clear that I felt that people should avoid giving to the Salvation Army (see the top of page 53). This remark then led to the most heated discussion that there’s ever been on this thread.
There are a lot of charities out there. In the US alone, I’ve seen the number estimated at about two million. And many of them address important problems. So what’s the best use for your donation? Fortunately, we don’t need to spend much time looking into this ourselves. GiveWell is an independent, nonprofit charity evaluator. They publish a list of top charities (http://www.givewell.org/charities/top-charities
). Their #1 recommended charity, new for this year, is GiveDirectly (http://www.givedirectly.org/
). GiveDirectly transfers cash payments to extremely low income households. I think this sounds great – let the poor spend the funds on what they feel they need the most. Apparently not much is spent on alcohol, tobacco, or other “temptation goods”.
To be honest, I haven’t donated to GiveDirectly yet, because I just learned about them recently. But, I plan to. And I do feel a degree of internal conflict in regards to charity. I have a pretty thrifty lifestyle, in general. We don’t eat at restaurants. We don’t eat animal products. We don’t pay for cable TV or Netflix. We don’t buy many books or use much paper (most of what we read is either online or checked out from the library). We don’t fly very much, and often go camping on our vacations. Our computer is 7 years old. The only cell phone I have is ~10 years old and is kept in the car to be used only in emergencies. I don’t spend much on clothing, and I don’t pay for haircuts or things like that. Our kids wear a lot of “hand-me-downs” from relatives. And we don’t spend anything in heating or cooling our home. But, there are still places where I could cut further. For example, I still eat 100% organic. I could eat the same foods conventional and save ~20% on my monthly food bill (http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/family/how-much-more-does-organic-food-cost-and-why.htm
). I could then send those savings to GiveDirectly. Wouldn’t this be better? Part of my justification for eating organic is because growing foods organically is better for the farmers and also for the environment. Furthermore, since I’m the primary caretaker of two young kids, I ought to keep myself as healthy as possible, and this seems to be another reason to eat organic. Still, I bet that a poor family in Uganda could benefit more from those funds than we could. For the time being, I’ll stick with eating organic, but I may change my mind about this in the future.