Giving What We Can

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Giving What We Can
Giving What We Can text logo.jpg
Founded 14 November 2009
Founder Toby Ord
Focus Poverty relief
Location
  • Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Littlegate House, St. Ebbe's Street, Oxford, OX1 1PT, UK
Origins Oxford, England
Area served Worldwide
Method Members donate 10% of income to poverty relief
Members 660[1]
Key people Toby Ord, Will MacAskill
Website http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/

Giving What We Can is an international society for the promotion of the most cost-effective poverty relief, in particular in the developing world.

Founded by moral philosopher Dr Toby Ord in November 2009, Giving What We Can aims to encourage people to commit to long-term donation to the causes that provide the most cost-effective poverty relief.[2] Giving What We Can conducts extensive research into the relative effectiveness of charities, and provides a list of those it most highly recommends. Currently this includes charities that work to treat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), tuberculosis, and malaria.

History[edit]

Beginning[edit]

Giving What We Can was founded as a giving society in 2009 by Toby Ord (an ethics researcher at Oxford University) and his wife Bernadette Young (a physician) with the goal of encouraging people to give a larger fraction of their income on a regular basis to alleviate world poverty.[2] Ord cited Peter Singer's essay Famine, Affluence, and Morality about one's moral duty to give to the poor as inspiration for starting Giving What We Can. In the beginning, Giving What We Can members pledged to give at least 10% of their lifetime income to poverty alleviation. Ord himself plans to donate 10% of his earnings for life and everything above about $28,000 a year, the median after-tax salary in the U.K.[2][3]

Methodology[edit]

Focus on effectiveness[edit]

Giving What We Can claims that there is a huge variance between the effectiveness of charities in helping the poor, and they recommend donating only to the very best charities that they recommend, in order to maximise the benefit of their donations. Giving What We Can focuses on effectiveness in terms of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs).[4]

Top-down approach: start with causes, then sub-causes, then specific charities[edit]

According to the Giving What We Can website, the variance in cost-effectiveness of charities arises largely due to the variance in the nature of the causes that the charities operate in. For this reason, Giving What We Can focuses mostly on charities that work in the areas that Giving What We Can considers the most likely to have high impact. According to their website:[4]

This enormous variance explains the first important part of our methodology: when looking for excellent charitable opportunities, we work from the top down. What that means is that we start by looking at various areas of charitable activity (e.g. global health) and try and decide which of these are the most promising. Only after we've done this do we start looking at more promising sub-areas within that (e.g. malaria treatment), and various methods for addressing them (e.g. bednets and antimalarials). Finally, we look for actual charities which are exemplary in achieving these aims (e.g. AMF).

Ways they differ from other charity evaluators[edit]

According to the Giving What We Can website,[5] they differ from other charity evaluators in terms of the importance they give to metrics such as administrative overhead. While charity evaluators such as Charity Navigator use the fraction of donations spent on program expenses versus administrative overhead as an important indicator, Giving What We Can focuses on the measure of quality-adjusted life years per unit money, i.e., how much improvement can be achieved in quality-adjusted life years per unit money donated. Giving What We Can's position on this matter is similar to that of some other charity evaluators such as GiveWell.[6]

QALYs and DALYs[edit]

Giving What We Can focuses on disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). These are similar to quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) with some small differences in accounting methods.[7][8]

Focus on expected value[edit]

Giving What We Can uses an expected value (or expected utility) framework when evaluating and comparing charities.[9]

Focus on room for more funding[edit]

Giving What We Can focuses on the question of room for more funding: what will additional donations to a charity accomplish?[10] In this respect, they are similar to charity evaluator GiveWell.[11]

Operations[edit]

Identifying candidate causes and candidate charities[edit]

As mentioned in the philosophy section, Giving What We Can uses a top-down approach to charity evaluation: it begins by identifying the most promising causes, then identifies the most promising sub-causes within those causes, then identifies the top charities within those sub-causes.[4]

Giving What We Can uses the following sources to help it identify top causes and charities:[12] the research of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, the Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries (DCP2) report published by the Disease Control Priorities Project, the WHO-CHOICE guide published by the World Health Organization, and the work of charity evaluator GiveWell. In addition, Giving What We Can actively conducts its own research.

Charity evaluations[edit]

Giving What We Can publishes detailed evaluations and case studies of its top-rated recommended charities and also publishes analyses and evaluations of various causes.[13] Examples include their evaluations of Against Malaria Foundation,[14] and their case study of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.[15]

Other activities[edit]

Giving What We Can maintains an active blog[16] where they discuss their ongoing research as well as recent news and developments.

Pledges[edit]

Pledge to Give[edit]

In November 2009, Giving What We Can founder Dr Toby Ord received significant media attention when he made a personal pledge to donate at least 10% of his income for the rest of his working life to combat poverty.[17][18] Ord founded Giving What We Can as a society of like-minded donors who share his commitment to fighting poverty through lifelong giving. All members of Giving What We Can thus make a public pledge to give at least 10% of their income each year until retirement. The Pledge to Give can be made at the standard 10% rate, or a higher rate.

The purposes of the pledge are to:

  • Establish a lifestyle that accommodates a high level of charitable giving, ensuring that the individual's donations are manageable and sustainable, whilst being enough to make a significant difference
  • Make a personal and public commitment to maintain this level of donation
  • Publicly demonstrate support for combating poverty by using the most effective means

The Further Pledge[edit]

Citing that he could live perfectly comfortably and happily within the means of a £20,000 yearly income, Ord additionally chose to pledge any money he earns in a year above this figure.[citation needed] This is what Giving What We Can calls a 'Further Pledge': the member defines a baseline yearly income they intend to live within, and above which they will donate all earnings.

Notable members[edit]

US Chapters[edit]

On December 2, 2010, the first US chapter was officially started at Rutgers University.[19] Peter Singer spoke at the launch event to a crowd of about 600 attendees (video link).[20]

On March 2, 2011, Toby Ord spoke at Rutgers University (video link).[21]

On April 11, 2011, the second US chapter was officially started at Princeton University.[19] Jeffrey Sachs recorded a public message applauding Giving What We Can activities (video link).[22]

The University of Pennsylvania also has a chapter.[23]

Criticism[edit]

The charity comparison organisation GiveWell has critiqued the use of DALYs to compare charities[24] and, more specifically, the high regard these estimates give to neglected tropical diseases;[25] following each article is a discussion between Givewell's Holden and Giving What We Can's Will MacAskill.

A debate article in Ceasefire Magazine, between a GWWC representative and a critic, contained a range of criticisms of the charity. Criticisms were centered on what was described as "[t]he hollowness of paying others to push for structural change" which "is resounding and fundamentally misapprehends collective struggle", and an alternative method was posited: "sustained collective mobilizations against the structures and social relations of capitalism that underpin global poverty."[26]

Similar resources[edit]

Similar intent[edit]

Resources that also evaluate cost-effectiveness.

Other charity evaluators[edit]

Resources that evaluate charities on other grounds.

Media coverage[edit]

Giving What We Can has been covered in a number of media outlets around the world.

United States: Wall Street Journal,[2][27] the New York Times,[28] National Public Radio,[29] and NBC News.[30]

United Kingdom: The Guardian,[3] BBC News,[31] The Sunday Times,[32][33] Sky News,[34] and New Statesman.[35]

Other countries: Canberra Times[36] and Euromoney.[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Our Members". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  2. ^ a b c d Espinoza, Javier (November 28, 2011). "Small Sacrifice, Big Return". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Unthinkable? Giving 10%: Despite these straitened times an Oxford-based campaign wants volunteers to donate 10% of their earnings (Editorial)". The Guardian. January 6, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c "Methodology". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  5. ^ "How We Differ From Other Charity Evaluators". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  6. ^ Karnofsky, Holden (2009-12-01). "The worst way to pick a charity". 
  7. ^ "QALYs and DALYs". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  8. ^ "Complication with DALYs". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  9. ^ "Expected value". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  10. ^ "Fungibility and room for funding". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  11. ^ "Guide to "room for more funding" analysis". GiveWell. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  12. ^ "Our sources". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  13. ^ "Charity Evaluations". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  14. ^ "Further information about AMF". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  15. ^ "SCI Case Study". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  16. ^ "Blog". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  17. ^ Richard Woods (2009-11-15). "Take My Money, I Don't Want It". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  18. ^ "Academic pledges to give away £1m". BBC. 2009-11-14. 
  19. ^ a b "Giving What We Can: Rutgers". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  20. ^ "Peter Singer - GWWC". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  21. ^ "Global Poverty: Why should we care? What can we do about it?". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2011-06-06. 
  22. ^ "Jeffrey Sachs - GWWC". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2011-06-06. 
  23. ^ "Giving What We Can: Penn". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 2014-10-03. 
  24. ^ "Cost-effectiveness estimates: inside the sausage factory". GiveWell. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  25. ^ "Neglected Tropical Disease charities: Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, Deworm The World". GiveWell. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  26. ^ "Helping the poor…by getting rich: ingenious or delusional?". Ceasefire Magazine. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  27. ^ Banjo, Shelly (December 11, 2010). "Pledging to Give What They Can". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  28. ^ Rosenberg, Tina (December 5, 2012). "Putting Charities to the Test". New York Times Opinionator blog. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  29. ^ Memmott, Mark (December 18, 2012). "How Much Good Can You Do? There's A Calculator For That". National Public Radio. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  30. ^ "The Dylan Ratigan Show (segment on Giving What We Can)". NBC News. 
  31. ^ "Oxford academic Toby Ord gives salary to charity". BBC News. December 8, 2010. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  32. ^ Woods, Richard (November 28, 2010). "C’mon, take more of my money, says Oxford don. A charitable society set up by philosopher Toby Ord has amassed £13m in pledges, and he will increase the money he gives away". The Sunday Times. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  33. ^ Hellen, Nicholas (December 9, 2012). "Oxford don sparks flood of charity cash". The Sunday Times. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  34. ^ "Charities Fear For Survival As Donations Drop: One in six UK charities say they will struggle to survive unless the economy improves, with many dipping into reserve funds.". Sky News. December 15, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  35. ^ Gill, Martha (January 8, 2013). "The man who gives away a third of his income. Would you give up a luxury to save a life?". New Statesman. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  36. ^ Burke, Kate (September 8, 2012). "Feeling good about giving 'til it hurts". Canberra Times. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  37. ^ Saigal, Kanika (June 12, 2012). "Impact investing: the big business of small donors". Euromoney. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 

External links[edit]