By D’Arcy Williams, Intern, External Relations & Communications
On November 13, 2015, renowned philosopher Peter Singer spoke at an event hosted by Population Services International (PSI) and Giving What We Can: DC (GWWC: DC) in Washington, DC. Before 1,000 attendees, Singer discussed his simple but profound idea that living a fully ethical life involves doing the “most good you can do” and how Effective Altruism can end poverty.
On the eve of #GivingTuesday, Peter Singer released his list of Best Charities for 2016 through his organization The Life You Can Save. Once again, PSI was included as one of most effective non-profits in the world.
Here are 6 take away ideas from the Effective Altruism Movement, inspired by Singer’s writings, to help guide you this #GivingTuesday.
- Effective Altruism is about doing what you can when you know it is going to be effective and make a difference. Singer defined altruism as attempting to live your life to make the world a better place; while effectiveness is ensuring whatever resources you are putting towards doing good – whether it is time or percentage of income – are used as efficiently as possible.
- Don’t just try and make the world a better place in the general sense. Try and do the most good and make the biggest positive difference in the world with the resources at your disposal.
- When Effective Altruists claim to want to make the world a better place, they really do mean the world – they are Universalists. Is your aim to reduce the amount of suffering in the world and prevent the largest number of people living in extreme poverty from dying before their natural age? Yes, you are a great candidate for effective altruism.
- When choosing a cause, it’s important to consider the long-term implications of your investment. Some think any cause is as good as any other, and to simply follow your passion is good enough. Not Effective Altruists, nor Peter Singer. Effective Altruism suggests we ought to be thinking much more about effectiveness and where we get the biggest bang for our buck.
- Choosing an ethical career doesn’t mean you have to work for a non-profit. Naturally, most people would say working for a reputable non-profit is the obvious way to do the most good with your career. Singer reminds us that people who don’t work in the non-profit world can also make a difference with their career through living modestly and giving what they can to charity. On the extreme end, Singer uses the example of a Wall Street banker who can continue to live humbly while committing an even greater amount of income to effective charities.
- Effectiveness matters, as does how you measure it. 70% of Americans who donate to charity do zero research on the charity they are donating to. The other 30% tend to look at one metric – the percentage of expenditure on administrative costs. Only in extreme cases might this be useful to measure a charity’s effectiveness. However, organizations that choose to cut back on administrative costs might not have the best and most effective programs, nor the resources to monitor and evaluate them. Groups such as GiveWell, Animal Charity Evaluators, and Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save have emerged as great resources for measuring charities’ effectiveness beyond administrative costs.
In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, GWWC: DC has collected $10,000 to distribute to highly effective non-profit organizations. They have organized a Giving Game, choosing four non-profit organizations they believe to be the best in the world within their respective niches. PSI has been chosen as a finalist and this evening, #GivingTuesday, GWWC: DC will announce the results of the competition. Vote here!