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MARCH 2021

Q&A Series:

Inspirational Stories

Many of you have asked us for inspirational stories. Well, here you go :)

If you have a story you'd like to tell (written or video), we would love to hear about it and feature it on our website! You can send us your story by replying to this email or by clicking the "Share your story" button below.

Share your story

This is an excerpt of Michael Schur's story, taken from the Foreword of Peter Singer's book The Life You Can Save. Michael is the creator of The Good Place and co-creator of the comedy series Brooklyn Nine-Nine:

I first came across Peter Singer in 2006, via an article he wrote in the New York Times Magazine. He was discussing the “Golden Age of Philanthropy.” Warren Buffett had just pledged $37 billion to the Gates Foundation and other charities, which on an inflation-adjusted basis, Singer noted, was “more than double the lifetime total given away by two of the philanthropic giants of the past, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, put together.” Singer posed some simple questions: What should a billionaire give to charity? What should we (non-billionaires, ostensibly) give? And how do we calculate these numbers?
What struck me about Singer’s arguments was that the amount in question, for him, wasn’t theoretical. It was calculable. There is an amount of money one needs to live a decent life—to pay for a reasonable amount of rent, clothes, food, and leisure. And if you have more than that amount, he posited, you should give it away—because you don’t need it, and someone else does.
The bluntness of it made me chuckle. It was a straight-faced, matter-of-fact shrug of an argument, and even as I formed my own responses to him in my head, I kept having the same thought, over and over:
“Well, geez. I’ve never looked at it that way before.”

Read the full story by downloading The Life You Can Save.

Kate Tapping's story. Founder of Write for the World notebooks.

I was brought up in the relatively privileged inner eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia with the blessings of a stable family, access to a good health system and a tertiary education. As I moved into my thirties, and then into my forties, I’ve increasingly worried about the inequality between the life we’re living here and that of others in different parts of the world. I read books about dystopian futures and think to myself, in some ways these scenarios are already playing out, right now – just not right here where I sit drinking a latte in my local hipster café.

A friend introduced me to the work of Peter Singer, and his book The Most Good You Can Do gave me a direction to channel my worries in what feels like a proactive way.

My understanding is definitely a work in progress, but this is what I’m going with for the moment: we can make the greatest positive difference in the world by taking advantage of our education and experience to make the most money we can, and by then donating as much of that money as our families can afford to the organisations who can most effectively help those in dire need. And we need to keep doing this until global equality—of health, education and living conditions—is achieved. 

In June 2017 my family committed to giving away five per cent of our monthly earnings. I've since started a project called Write The World notebooks. The premise is simple. We produce gorgeous notebooks and sell them to raise money to tackle issues around global poverty. Every A$10 notebook purchased = a A$10 donation to one of The Life You Can Save's recommended charities.

Buy Write The World's notebooks.

Simon Panrucker's story. He is a composer and donates at least 10% of his income to effective charities:

I’ve been making playful things all my life. Playful videos, playful music, playful performances. I have a deep drive to rejoice in nonsense, to celebrate the absurdities of life and bring joy to people’s hearts with silliness and humour. This relentless playfulness eventually found a generous home when I got a job writing music for Cartoon Network’s show Clarence. Having been living off peanuts (actually mostly baked beans) for a long time, I found myself earning a decent living writing ridiculous (and awesome) music for television. Not only that, but I started getting paid royalties for LITERALLY SLEEPING while my music is played all over the world.

It didn’t seem fair to me, really. My general living costs are low and, aside from the odd musical instrument, my tastes are inexpensive. I don’t need much money to live well and be happy, and I would feel uncomfortable fostering a more lavish lifestyle while so many people in the world are languishing in extreme poverty. So I found myself with a surplus of money that I wanted to put to good use.

But how? I had grown distrustful of major charities as I wasn’t sure how effective their actions were in practice, or how much money actually went to the right place rather than being frittered on bloated administration and marketing costs. I wanted to be sure that any money I donated would be put to the best use possible. This began a chain of exploration into effective giving starting at GiveWell and leading to Will MacAskill’s book Doing Good Better, then to Giving What We Can, the wider Effective Altruism community, and ultimately to The Life You Can Save – both the organisation and the book.

I was thrilled to find this incredible collection of people and organisations dedicated not only to doing good, but to doing the most good possible. I felt somewhat relieved that someone else was doing the hard work figuring out the most effective ways to save or improve lives across the world, and grateful I could contribute financially to help their efforts and start saving lives myself!

Read the full story and watch Simon's video.

Share your story

If you've been inspired by these stories and you'd like to make a donation, you can do so here. If you would like some advice on where and how to donate, please contact and Lydia will put you in touch with the relevant team member.

Do Good. Feel Good. 

Stacey Black

Deputy Director of The Life You Can Save

Letters to the Team

We encourage people to send letters that we may publish in our newsletter.
If you missed our March 9 newsletter, you can view it here.

Amy Schwimmer, former The Life You Can Save Staff Member & Ongoing Fan:

Hi Charlie.

I enjoyed your recent newsletter piece about vacuuming and philanthropic giving. I just read in the NYT that Dyson is one of many companies that is on the lookout for social media influencers to promote their products, so you might want to share your column with them, not to mention apply for a job there to fill some of your down time now that you’re “leaning back” a bit :)

But on a more serious note, I like your suggestions for ways to “feel” the impact of one’s donation more tangibly. Another one that I find helpful is to go to the websites of the individual charities to learn more about them, and even reach out to them, as often they are happy to hear from donors and will reply to you. I think the more you learn about an organization and the more connected you become to them, the more immediate and “real” their work--and your support of that work--will seem. Also, posting about The Life You Can Save and your favorite The Life You Can Save recommended charities on your own social media helps you feel connection and ownership.

And regarding it taking “a great deal of effort to part with money that we are worried we might need in the future,” I think there are lots of ways to make that not feel so hard. One tool, as you mention, is to pledge a certain amount or percent of your income. Another, as you have pointed out in past pieces about “Personal Best,” is that giving can get easier over time by virtue of us “practicing” it. As you’ve convincingly explained, the act of giving is like many other things in life--the more we do it, the more natural and enjoyable it becomes. It’s like exercising one’s metaphorical “giving muscles,” which translate to one’s brain and heart.

Another strategy that I’ve found helpful in making giving feel less “difficult” is to honestly ask oneself whether giving away $X will even be noticeable to you or your family? Of course for many people, every dollar counts, but for many others, it really doesn’t, so rethinking the perceived “negative” financial impact of your giving on your own life may help those who are fortunate enough to be fairly comfortable financially to experience much less “effort” in opening their purse strings. Perhaps compare that amount to what you often spend on a dinner out, or a bag of groceries. This kind of reframing can make it feel much less effortful to give as we train ourselves to realize that there can be ways to make every dollar count much more than (or in addition to) our usual day-to-day spending. 

Thanks for everything that you and The Life You Can Save do to make the world a better, more equitable place!

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