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If The Life You Can Save influenced you to donate directly to one of our “Recommended Nonprofits” (RNPs) over the last year, we’d appreciate a quick favor to make sure that we count your gift when we calculate our impact as an organization. We’re able to track gifts made through our website as well as donations made to The Life You Can Save with instructions to pass the money along to one or more of our RNPs. But it’s harder for us to track gifts that are made directly to our RNPs — for instance, donations made through their websites or via check, bank transfer, or donor-advised fund. If you donated directly to an RNP and our work played a part in your choice, it would mean a lot to us if you could fill out this form.

Debunked: Two “Great” Reasons We Use to Be Less Generous

A wealth of evidence suggests that we consistently ignore great advice. Not following doctor’s orders or faithfully adhering to a healthy lifestyle are good examples. Here is another one. In The Life You Can Save, Peter Singer, one of the world’s most famous ethicists, has developed excellent guidelines for effective giving, which he has then used to suggest minimum annual pledge amounts that are both affordable and impactful. Still, most of us fail to follow Professor Singer’s recommendations and live up to the minimum standard of global citizenship that he proposes. But we have our reasons, right? Below I attempt to debunk two common but mistaken rationalizations for not giving.
#1: We rationalize our not giving, or not giving more, by telling ourselves that our donations do not actually reach the intended recipients.

It is true that some aid organizations are poorly run, and there is the possibility of corruption at any level of the supply chain, from the local level all the way to national or international leadership. However, the nonprofits we recommend have been curated and chosen, in part because they deliver what they promise through secure, closely monitored supply chains.

Here’s another way to think about it. When we use this rationalization to avoid giving generously, we assume that we are avoiding a risky mistake: the possibility that our donation will be wasted along the way and never make it to the intended recipient. However, by not donating, we also risk another mistake: that is, missing an opportunity to save lives and reduce unnecessary suffering. I would much prefer to risk making the first mistake if it also meant avoiding the second mistake. And what I am suggesting is that the first mistake is highly unlikely with our carefully curated nonprofits.

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#2  Aid is just a “bandaid.”

I have discussed this rationalization before (in the April 2018 newsletter), but I think it is worth revisiting, because it is so commonly used as a “reason” to not take and follow through on the pledge. One of the common objections about donating to help the global poor is that the help is just “providing a bandaid.” Even if this were the case, is there no value to temporary relief, especially if it paves the way for long-term health? When is the last time you had a serious wound that was bleeding profusely and you didn’t run to get a bandaid? If your child was dying of diarrhea and needed the “bandaid” of IV fluids, what would you do?

But beyond this obvious rebuttal to the “bandaid” excuse for not giving, I want to suggest that the amazing, highly cost-effective work our recommended nonprofits do is not a mere “bandaid.” Day in and day out, our nonprofits strive to improve the health and raise the standard of living of the people who receive their assistance over the long term.

Malaria, for example, is one of the biggest drags on the African economy. Reducing malaria not only saves lives, but also improves economic and overall well being. Economically empowering the poor—especially women — as so many of our organizations do, directly or indirectly, raises the standard of living for both individual families and communities. And the same can be said for preventing blindness and restoring sight — a pretty good investment for US$50 or so.

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What is clearly no “myth” is that we have a very hard time parting with our money, particularly when the beneficiaries are people we have never met and we will likely never have a chance to directly observe the good we are doing. But overcoming our reluctance to be generous allows us to do an amazing amount of good and live up to our own values. 

Do Good. Feel Good.

Charlie Bresler

Board Member of The Life You Can Save

Upcoming Events

Peter Singer is touring across Australia and New Zealand in August 2021!
Grab your tickets to learn how to apply ethics in your everyday life and make the greatest impact on society.

Virtual Event tickets are also available. All net proceeds from the tour will be donated to our efforts to alleviate global poverty.

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