Do You Give Enough to Charity? Here’s How I Much I Give.

Yesterday I wrote about Effective Altruists.

It’s one thing to judge the charitable giving of others, so today I’ll write about myself.

In doing so, I hope to make the issue of giving more relevant to a reader of this blog, as well as to increase accountability for me to give. So long as this blog is going, I’ll be public about what percentage of my income I’m giving to charity, as well as where I donate it.

This Dylan Matthews post is a good foray into individual giving. In reviewing Jeb Bush’s charitable giving, he writes:

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So how am I doing?

I calculated my giving like this: (my giving to charities) + (10% of my taxes paid).

From what I gather, about 10% of our taxes goes to helping the poor, so I think it’s fair to count that as (forced) charitable giving. Others might disagree / view this as cheating. Perhaps.

All told:  6% of my earnings went to helping those less off.

Where did I give? 

100% of my charitable giving went to the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI).

I made this donation because Give Well ranked it as a top charity.

I chose to give to deworming rather than the Against Malaria Foundation (another top rated charity) for no real rationale reason. I just picked it.

I choose not to fund Give Directly (another top rated charity) because my read on the evidence is that conditional cash transfers work better than direct cash transfers. Give Well has spent more time on this than I have, so I surely might be wrong, but I had questions about Give Well ranking unconditional cash transfers so highly.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Give Well is the end all be all of charitable giving. Many organizations are doing work that is difficult to measure in controlled experiments. But I don’t have a lot of time to evaluate these organizations, so I’d rather give to a place that has been vetted than one that has not.

If either Give Well or another charity evaluator began attempting to analyze the effectiveness of these types of organizations, I might shift my charity allocations.

I can do better

How much is enough? I surely won’t be able to answer that question in this post.

But I’d like to get it up to 10%.

In December, I’ll let you know if I do.

Hopefully if we’re all more transparent about how much we give, as well as where we give it, we can increase the amount and effectiveness of our collective giving.

4 thoughts on “Do You Give Enough to Charity? Here’s How I Much I Give.

  1. Ryan Hill

    Two questions about how you’re thinking about this:

    1. How do you score choice of vocation? You, for instance, work in a field that’s largely working to benefit the world. Some work in fields that largely benefit themselves. And presumably Schistosomiasis fighters are spending the greatest amount of time doing the most good. Even if they don’t get paid well and have little disposable income to contribute, they are obviously leveraging another important resource better than the rest of us.

    2. How do you think about the trade off between giving your money now vs saving it, investing, and giving a much higher number at a much higher rate in 20 years? And how do you think about, say, Warren Buffett doing that (ie someone whose return on investment is guaranteed to be much higher than inflation or however the charities will invest their spare cash)? In other words, had Buffett donated every spare dime along the way instead of investing it, he’d have a lot less to give away now. But some people would’ve benefited along the way.


  2. John C

    I think 10% is the right number but it obviously gets easier the closer you get towards Bush’s income. Interestingly, Obama didn’t get beyond 4% during his good years until the last year before he became President. I’m fascinated by people who believe taxes should be higher but do not donate much – it’s the ultimate self-taxation. I’d like to see them walk the walk.

    With regard to Ryan’s comment on Buffett – I’d argue to give today. The price of saving a life often is small economically but priceless. Further, there is no way of knowing of whether the life saved or improved could have created an even greater return for society.


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