Do you want to have a positive impact on society, but you’re not sure how? Have you been thinking about donating money to charity, but not done it yet? Then this blog post is perfect for you.
Most of us want to make a difference. We are not only looking for purpose in our jobs, but we want to contribute in other ways as well. There are countless opportunities to do so. Broadly speaking we can split them in two categories: by using our time or using our money.
An example of using your time is helping an elderly person with groceries. Or you can volunteer at the food bank. The big advantage is that you can directly observe the difference you’re making. The problem though is that time is scarce. If you don’t have much time or prefer to not be in the front line, you can also make financial contributions to good causes. This way you can massively increase your positive impact.
It may seem counter intuitive, but research has shown that spending a dollar on someone else makes you happier than spending it on yourself. And it has been proven over and over that people who give money to charity are happier than people who don’t. So why aren’t more people giving money to charity?
In this blog post, we will tackle the three most used reasons for people to not give to charity. Don’t worry; our goal here is not to make you feel bad. We just want to take away some concerns and steer you in the right direction with a few practical tips. Ultimately, we want to give you the opportunity to make the world a better place and be happier doing so.
So, with further ado, let’s dig into the three most heard reasons for not giving money to charity.
Number 1: I can’t afford it. I will give money to charity when I have a higher salary.
It’s tempting to use our current wealth as an excuse to not give money to charity today. We justify it by telling ourselves that we will do it in the future. But if you have a job, you can probably afford giving 1% of your income to good causes. Think what would happen if the government forced you to get by with less money by increasing income tax by 1%. You would simply adjust your spending. If you would even notice it at all.
The research looking at the relation between giving money to charity and happiness also takes into account income and wealth. The conclusion is that if you take two people with the exact same amount of money, the one who gives to charity is on average happier than the one who doesn’t. Regardless of how rich they are or how much they earn.
If everyone would give 1% of their income to charitable causes, some of the biggest challenges on the planet would quickly be resolved. If you want to change the world, start with yourself.
Number 2: There are so many charities and I can’t give to all of them.
There is no shortage of issues in the world and charities to pick from. Of course, we can’t give money to all good causes, but that shouldn’t stop us from giving to some. First, we must decide on a yearly budget that we would like to give to charity. This could be 1% of our income as mentioned before. Just make sure that it’s an amount that you feel comfortable with. Any contribution is better than no contribution at all.
Then you can start thinking about the problems that you feel strongest about. This is a very personal question as it could be related to many topics, like poverty, education, environment, or animal welfare. When you have a better idea of the issues that you would like to help solve, you can start searching for charities in that domain. When you search online, you’ll mainly find the bigger organizations. If you would like to be more closely involved, you can also search for or ask people around you for some smaller projects.
If you find it difficult to choose, you can split your budget between multiple charities. Another practical tip is to not commit your entire budget just yet. Maybe set aside between 5% and 10% of your budget for more ad-hoc opportunities. Each year some friend or family member raises money for a charity by running a marathon or something like this. Contributing to these causes is a great way to kill two birds with one stone – you can give money to charity and support someone you care about.
Number 3: I don’t really trust these charities, because they use a lot of the money for marketing and paying staff.
This is the charity equivalent of not giving money to a homeless person, because you believe that he will use it to buy alcohol or drugs. With a homeless person you can solve this by giving food instead of money. With charities it requires a little bit more effort and research.
Not all charities are as efficient. When you give money to the wrong charity, this means that your money is not going to a charity that will actually have a positive impact. If you want to find out how a charity uses its money, you can go to their website. Most charities publish information about their projects, actual impact, and financials. You can usually find the percentage of money that is spend on marketing, fundraising, and administration. If a charity doesn’t share this information publicly, you can always contact them to request it. This type of research takes some time, but it’s important to know that your money is well spend.
If you don’t want to go through all this and you’re struggling with the question which charity to support, there’s a brilliant website that can help you. Givewell.org does extensive research on which charities offer the most bang for the buck in terms of lives saved or improved per dollar donated. They provide a list of the most effective charities worldwide.
At Givewell they even have a Fund you can donate money to, that distributes it among the top-ranked charities. This is a great option if you can’t choose between these charities with the most positive impact. If you live in the US or the Netherlands, your contributions are tax deductible. This means that you can increase your donations for the same net amount. Just make sure to check the conditions before you make your contribution.
Those were the three reasons that we tend to use for not giving money to charity. I certainly used all of them myself. Hopefully the information here will convince you to do the right thing. You may not only make the world a slightly better place, but also make yourself happier :-).
P.S. I want to do a quick shout-out to Añañau, a small non-profit organization that helps kids who live in extreme poverty in Peru. My sister has volunteered there, and her experience gave me comfort that the money is well spent.