Charity Begins At Home

But it does a lot more good outside the home. The trouble for me has always been how to decide which charities to support and which ones to ignore. There are so many stories of aid being wasted because of ineffective programs that don’t address the needs of local people or corrupt bureaucrats that use it to line their own pockets that I sometimes wonder if I should bother doing anything at all. But that is just being lazy and selfish. All it takes is a bit of research, diligence and commitment. And remember that aid does not always have to be considered in terms of money. Many charities desperately need volunteers to help with their various activities.

I watched a recent TED talk by Peter Singer entitled, “The Why and How of Effective Altruism” (http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_singer_the_why_and_how_of_effective_altruism.html) that helped clarify things for me.

One site he recommended is Give Well (http://www.givewell.org/). Give Well appears to be a group that reviews charities and recommends the ones they believe should receive support based on transparency, accountability, cost-effectiveness and a strong positive impact on people’s lives. At the moment they list only three: Against Malaria Foundation (http://www.againstmalaria.com/), GiveDirectly (http://www.givedirectly.org/), and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/schisto).

Another similar review group is Giving What We Can (http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/). Interestingly their top two recommended charities are also the Against Malaria Foundation and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, which gives me a bit more confidence that they may actually be worthwhile. They also have a second tier they call the “Opportunities for Leverage” group. These contain Project Healthy Children (http://projecthealthychildren.org/), and Deworm the World (http://www.dewormtheworld.org/). While the dewormers didn’t make the top cut it’s hard to argue with a great name like that.

Giving What We Can is part of a group called The Centre for Effective Altruism (http://centreforeffectivealtruism.org/), which also contains 80,000 Hours (http://80000hours.org/), a site that provides career advice for people who want to make a difference, and The Life You Can Save (http://www.thelifeyoucansave.org/?utm_expid=72587378-8&utm_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fcentreforeffectivealtruism.org%2F), an organisation started by Peter Singer that encourages people to pledge at least 1% of their income to global poverty charities.

As a veterinarian this article would be incomplete if I did not say something about animal charities. Effective Animal Activism (http://www.effectiveanimalactivism.org/) is a similar group to Give Well and Giving What We Can but they assess animal related charities. Their top ones are the Humane League (http://thehumaneleague.com/), and Vegan Outreach (http://www.veganoutreach.org/).

Unfortunately none of these charities focus on wildlife or conservation and are all very USA-centric, which makes it difficult for those of us who live in the rest of the world. For a more Australian view of the world you could try Everyday Hero (http://www.everydayhero.com.au). They don’t appear to critique any of the charities but they have certainly come up with an impressive list crying out for your support, all 1640 of them.

In the end it all comes down to your own priorities, which is why I support Vets Beyond Borders (http://www.vetsbeyondborders.org/). The important thing is to make sure the bewildering array of “good causes” does not lead to inaction, because that would be the greatest tragedy of all.

Dr. F. Bunny

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  1. #1 by Holly Morgan on 22/06/2013 - 4:23 am

    I love this post! Especially “There are so many stories of aid being wasted because of ineffective programs that don’t address the needs of local people or corrupt bureaucrats that use it to line their own pockets that I sometimes wonder if I should bother doing anything at all. But that is just being lazy and selfish. All it takes is a bit of research, diligence and commitment.” It reminds me of this quote: “I’ve always respected those who try to change the world for the better rather than just complain about it.” ~ Michael Bloomberg (Autobiography, 1997)

    I think that Effective Animal Activism made the explicit decision not to consider charities that focus on wildlife/conservation at this stage, because you are much more likely to have a bigger impact by working to help factory farmed animals. Also, I reckon that the impact you can have by donating to a charity that has been independently researched by a charity evaluator in a significant amount of depth is much greater than the impact you have by donating to one that has not been independently championed in this way, EVEN IF you are not in the US and so will not be able to give tax-deductible donations. Because the range of effectiveness between charities is pretty massive!

    • #2 by vetsbeyondreason on 22/06/2013 - 4:37 pm

      Thanks very much. I’m glad you liked it.What I found a bit surprising and quite disappointing was how few charities were good enough to be recommended. It makes it difficult if your particular interest doesn’t fall into any of those categories.

      • #3 by Holly Morgan on 23/06/2013 - 1:52 am

        Yeah we need more charity evaluators, or more resources for or improvements on those that already exist!

  2. #4 by Josh Goldenberg on 22/06/2013 - 4:58 am

    You might be interested in this group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/suffering.in.nature/ 🙂

    • #5 by vetsbeyondreason on 22/06/2013 - 4:41 pm

      Thanks for your suggestion. I know you will find this hard to believe, but we are not on Facebook, so I could not access the link.

      • #6 by Josh Goldenberg on 22/06/2013 - 7:21 pm

        Oh cool, fair enough! Some interesting reading on these sorts of topics is here: http://www.utilitarian-essays.com . I also think wild animal suffering is the most important thing, but that it’s best to try and promote veganism/compassion for animals in the meantime before we try persuading people. There are really effective things to do in nature and it looks like you’ve found some good charities for that though.

  3. #7 by vetsbeyondreason on 27/06/2013 - 2:17 pm

    That is an impressive list. Thanks very much.

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