Group cites effects of charity donations
With the holiday season drawing nearer, members of a new campus organization are working to convince students that it truly is better to give than receive.
Following philosopher Peter Singer's talk on campus last week, students from Giving What We Can met last night in Scott Hall on the College Avenue campus to discuss the group's purpose of giving 10 percent of their incomes to worthy charities.
"Each of us can make a really big impact," said co-founder Nick Beckstead, a graduate student of philosophy. "It's really important that if we're going to give, we give to [effective] organizations."
After conducting research on organizations' effects on aid recipients' quality of life and life expectancy, Giving What We Can identified a number of groups worth supporting, including the Stop TB Partnership, Deworm the World and Population Services International, Beckstead said. The organization also cited independent charity evaluator givewell.org as a resource for those looking to donate money effectively.
For nearly 20 percent of the world's population, neglected tropical diseases — illnesses that could be solved with medications that take pennies to make — lower the quality of life, but a few cents could make them things of the past, Beckstead said.
"You don't have to be rich to make a massive difference," he said.
Co-founder Mark Lee presented reasons why many object to giving, including beliefs that giving has no real impact, aid to charity breeds dependence on those who give, and political action is more effective than monetary gifts.
Nonetheless, Lee said donating to help others have a better quality of life is a rewarding sacrifice.
"Giving is actually a great investment," Lee said. "Giving is the most fulfilling part of my life. It's a really transformative experience."
Though many insist that money would be best put toward improving conditions domestically, funds help the most people for the lowest cost abroad.
"If we want the most bang for our buck, the places to go are overseas," Lee said.
Attendee Chris Larlee expressed a concern about addressing the roots of the problem.
"Why can't we address the cause instead of the effect?" said Larlee, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "We can't have effective aid until other things happen."
Lee sympathized with Larlee's idea and said funding for research on the causes of poverty can help solve problem.
Hopefully, having the tools to make the right decisions will empower people to donate effectively, said Giving What We Can member Boris Yakubchik, a University graduate student.
"If you are aware of this information, you can do so much better," Yakubchik said.
While some are concerned that if they give money to charity, they will be less happy, research shows otherwise, Yakubchik said.
"We consistently over-predict how happy we will be when we get the things we want," he said. "If you're concerned about giving away a fraction of your money, it's very likely that you're overestimating how detrimental it will be to you."
People may always donate to charities on their own, but having a network of people who support giving can put on a kind of positive peer pressure, which makes Giving What We Can unique, Beckstead said. The group's website also features the names and occupations of those who give, who it hopes will inspire others to do the same.
"You have a community of people going with you and doing it," he said.