Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

bentarm comments on Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others... - Less Wrong

130 Post author: Yvain 24 December 2010 09:26PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (318)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: bentarm 25 December 2010 12:30:01PM 24 points [-]

Pretty much a corollary of this is Steve Landsburg's (for some reason controversial) point that you should only ever be donating money to one charity at a time (unless you're ridiculously rich). The charity which makes the best use out of your first $1 donation is almost certainly also the charity which makes the best use out of your 1000th dollar as well. Once you've done the calculation, spreading your money between different charities isn't hedging your bets, it's giving money to the wrong charity.

See his Slate article for a slightly more fleshed out version of the reasoning.

Comment author: novalis 29 December 2010 05:17:24AM 18 points [-]

There is one exception to this, which is political charities (ACLU, for instance). Giving to political charities, has a signalling effect: a political charity can say "we have twelve million donors," and this tells politicians that they had better listen to that charity or those twelve million people might be voting for someone else.

That said, a $10 donation is enough to get this effect.

Comment author: Vaniver 25 December 2010 04:02:17PM *  4 points [-]

The advice I hear is "limit yourself to three charities"- useful because it allows you to broaden your fuzzies (like supporting economic liberty and cute animals and 3rd world development) while significantly decreasing the overhead costs to the charities. They would much rather have a $1,000 donor than 10 $100 donors, especially if that donor has made an annual commitment.

Comment author: Document 06 July 2011 06:21:05PM 0 points [-]

Is that compatible with points five and six here, or is it a standing disagreement among activists?

Comment author: Vaniver 06 July 2011 07:15:00PM 3 points [-]

I suspect that SIAI is in a different position from most charities.

I don't know what percentage of charities are low on public support, but I suspect that is not a serious issue for most donors, as most donors couldn't provide more than 2% of a charity's total income, even with a third of their total charity budget.

Most charities have a practice of sending endless streams of junk mail, and so for most charities a gift of a few dollars is actually a losing proposition in the long term, since you sent the signal you would be receptive to future donation requests but don't actually send more money. The SIAI's strategy (and costs for emailing) are different from most charities, suggesting that different advice makes sense for them.

Comment author: ciphergoth 28 December 2010 02:21:36PM 2 points [-]

I actually tend to argue this point first, and the more general point about efficient charity second. I'm not sure if that's the most effective way to argue it though.

Comment author: apophenia 23 July 2011 08:18:11AM 3 points [-]

I suspect convincing people optimal philanthropy is a good idea is probably one of the most important things one could do. Maybe you should find out?