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"Maybe Christmas", he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!"
-The Grinch, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (p.29)
The Donate Your Christmas fundraiser is simple–instead of Christmas gifts, ask for donations to your preferred GiveWell-recommended charity. Of course, you can take it further than that if you’d like and ask colleagues or your social network.
You should Donate Your Christmas because by using the available resources with relatively small time commitments, it’s likely you’ll raise counterfactual funds for your preferred GiveWell recommended charity. In addition, it’s worth considering because it’s an opportunity to potentially spread ideas relating to effective altruism.
It’s likely to raise counterfactual funds for your preferred GiveWell recommended charity
First, I will outline why it’s likely you’ll raise money by briefly looking at seasonal trends, donor motivations, and results from other peer-to-peer campaigns, and then briefly state why it seems likely that part of the funds raised will be counterfactual.
Much evidence suggests people are more likely to give in December. For instance, one survey reported that 40% said they’re more likely to give during the holiday season than would be for the rest of the year. Network For Good’s Digital Giving Index also reports that 31% of annual giving occurred in December.
In addition, evidence on donor motivations indicates that peer-to-peer fundraisers may be successful. For instance, academic research suggests that social ties play a strong causal role in the decision to donate and increases average gift size as well. Complementary to this influence are the many people who give to those who ask. One survey recorded 20% of respondents saying that they simply donate to the charities that ask them.
Moreover, available data indicates that peer-to-peer fundraising pages regularly raise hundreds of dollars. One peer-to-peer fundraising platform reports that the average fundraising page raises $568 and this blog post reports Charity Water’s average peer-to-peer fundraiser totals at $770. These figures match well with Charity Science’s experience from last year’s Christmas Fundraiser which raised an average of $750 CAD per peer-to-peer fundraising page and a median amount of $319 CAD.
Unless your peer group and family regularly donate to GiveWell-recommended charities, it’s reasonable to suggest that a portion of the funds raised will be counterfactual.
There are relatively small time costs
The Christmas Fundraiser is easy to set up – visit our Christmas fundraisers page for the US, the UK, Canada or Australia on the donations platform CauseVox and then click “Create a Fundraising Page.” The next steps should be self-explanatory, and we’ve provided default text which you may adjust and pictures too so that the time costs involved are minimal.
When running your fundraiser, you can check out Peter Hurford’s guide to running a fundraiser for an overview of techniques that could lead to a successful fundraiser. Also know that we’ll provide email and Facebook status templates for you to save time in promoting your campaign. Here’s an example of one of the email templates:
“Hi [Person A]!
How are things? How are your kids doing? Over here, things are going really well. I just came back from a trip to Chicago, which was surprisingly beautiful and very cold. It snowed! The buildings were gorgeous and ornate though. It felt like I’d come to a steampunk city. [Note: start with something personal]
So I know we never really exchange gifts at Christmas but I’m hoping you might be up for making an exception this year. The thing is, as I generally have way too much stuff already and I’d rather gift money go towards saving lives, so I’ve decided to run a birthday/Christmas fundraiser in lieu of gifts.
All of the money I raise is going to give kids in the developing world medicine. Here’s the charity it’s for (LINK). Just $1.25 pays for the pill which treats them for an entire year. My goal is to raise $1,000, so that will treat 800 kids for a year. Would you like to help me reach this goal and donate to my campaign? Even just $10 would help eight kids. [Note: saying even just a small bit helps makes it so people can donate just a little and feel OK about it. Makes them know that what they can contribute matters] To donate you can just go to this link (LINK) If not, no worries. :)
Thanks and Happy Holidays!
And here’s an example of one of the Facebook status templates:
"Fair warning. This post is totally a plug, but it’s for awesome charities so I feel pretty okay about it. Also, I’m not asking for money. Just a bit of your time and some holiday spirit.
I want to give you a chance to help raise money for the best charities in the world. And by that I mean the ones that have been heavily scrutinized and give you the biggest bang for your buck. I’ll put some more information about those charities in the comments so you can check them out.
For those of you who are fed up with the materialism of Christmas (or just think you have some mega-generous, awesome family and friends), my pitch is that you ask for donations instead of (or in addition to) gifts this Christmas. Simply put, consider setting up an online fundraiser and put that multiplier effect to use. Check it out here: http://www.charityscience.com/christmas-fundraisers.html
If that’s not your cup of eggnog, remember you can still help me with my fundraiser. :)”
It’s worth sending messages and posts like these because evidence suggests compared to fundraisers who don’t ask, those who do substantially increase donations. What’s more, a DonorDrive report described that around 15% of peer-to-peer donations came through Facebook (p.4). This report also described that more than 40% of those who donate return to a peer-to-peer fundraising page multiple times before they donate (p.14). This suggests you should consider politely asking peers more than once, however use discretion.
Charity Science will also send you a series of helpful emails so that a successful fundraiser can be completed at low personal time costs. The emails will include:
How to ask people for donations if you’re nervous
How to post/email more than once without sounding repetitive
Ideas for Facebook comments on your Facebook posts
If at any stage you would like help, advice, or support for your Christmas Fundraiser, contact us at email@example.com for one-on-one support. Our goal is to make the process as simple and easy as possible.
By partaking in the Christmas Fundraiser, there’s potential to spread ideas relating to effective altruism
Jeff Kauffman said talking about effective altruism with coworkers can be awkward and Eric Herboso has noted it can be hard for introverts to raise effective altruism in social contexts. Often something is required to initiate conversations and the Christmas Fundraiser may provide this opportunity. This could mean it leads to conversations relating to effective altruism that wouldn’t otherwise happen and these conversations may spread ideas relating to effective altruism.
This conclusion is supported by evidence suggesting individual giving behaviours are affected by social influences or that your actions may promote a reluctant altruism that leads to charitable giving. As previously mentioned, there’s also research suggesting social ties play a strong causal role in the decision to donate and increases the average gift size as well. In further support of this, Giving What We Can states that publicly committing to our convictions can inspire others to give and can make giving normal and expected.
It could also be argued that by partaking in this Christmas Fundraiser you may be more likely to donate in the future. This seems to be partly supported by several GiveWell staff members mentioning the importance of giving becoming a habit. In addition, it could be argued that by completing this fundraiser, you may become a better advocate for effective altruism as your actions may better align with your beliefs and your communication skills might also improve as a result of the fundraising process.
There’s also evidence suggesting that giving makes people happier. This may particularly apply for peer-to-peer fundraising because, as this blog post notes on this research, the “overarching conclusion is that donors feel happiest if they give to a charity via a friend, relative or social connection rather than simply making an anonymous donation to a worthy cause.”
Some core ideas of effective altruism include:
We have an incredible opportunity to do good by giving to charities
A great deal of happiness can come from giving
Some charities are much better than others
The potential to spread these ideas is quite valuable and by partaking in the Christmas Fundraiser there’s the potential to spread these ideas and others that relate to effective altruism.
Additional things to consider
If you feel that participating in this fundraiser isn’t a good personal fit, then you may be interested in pledging a counterfactual Christmas match. Last year we had sufficient funds to counterfactually match all funds raised during Christmas Fundraisers. This year we have not acquired those funds, and as a result, it seems likely that we will not be able to offer everyone counterfactual matches for the funds they raise.
Some other donation options that you may be interested in include:
Signing up information
You can sign up for the Christmas Fundraiser through the following links:
If you don’t reside in one of those countries, you can sign up for the country whose unit currency is closest in value to your own, or consider making a page on the AMF’s site which has tax deductibility in more countries.
Fundraising pages made on AMF’s site also have lower fees because CauseVox, the fundraising platform hosting the Charity Science Christmas Fundraiser, charges a 4.25% fee on donations. There are also possible fees common to both pages of approximately 2.1% when donating via PayPal. Due to these relatively large fees we encourage those participating in the Charity Science Christmas Fundraiser to tell parties interested in donating substantial amounts to donate directly to the relevant charity to maximize the impact of their gift.
People may prefer using Charity Science’s pathway over AMF’s because our third-party fundraising page is more visually appealing, easier to edit, and allows fundraising for GiveWell recommended charities other than AMF. However, we are unsure how this compares to lower fees and think reasonable people could disagree about the best platform to use.
Authors: Joey Savoie and Tee Barnett
Before getting to know your local atheist, it’s very much worth rehashing the ABCs of non-belief that run the risk of remaining little known, especially now that the skeptic community has become more interested and active in charitable causes. Public intellectuals frequenting bestseller lists on our behalf are swift to go on the offensive, but there’s something to be said for shoring up the defense as well. A real uneasiness toward atheists and their intentions seems to flow from a very common and endlessly parroted assumption—that without belief in god, anything would be allowed. Divine reprimand and reward are ultimately credited with keeping us on the straight and narrow, and often said to have provided the moral foundation for our society. A charitable movement populated with skeptics and atheists would seem counterintuitive or even completely bananas then, but nonetheless, a number of causes under the umbrella of Effective Altruism (EA) are blossoming. How do we account for this? Should we credit our learned behavior to a society built on these heavenly mandates, or is it something else?
Spoiler alert: the answer is something else.
Whether it comes from the prosaic lips of Ivan Fyodorovitch of The Brothers Karamazov, in the more contemporary form of Dinesh D’Souza, or confronted you recently one way or another, the common argument sees morality as having originated from the outside. Without a punishing set of external pressures imposed from up high, so it goes, mankind will naturally veer off into a wilderness of undesirable behavior. If we care to reexamine the ABCs of atheism, we could start with what Elizabeth Anderson aptly describes as the atheist commitment to “the expansion and growth of the human mind.” Of course, this might seem obnoxiously smug. Who would march against personal growth?
What Anderson is getting at is less about condescending to theists and more about illustrating where morality originates for atheists. Jean-Paul Sartre pre-empted her decades before by contending that morality comes from within and grows outwardly. Without wading too far into the philosophical thicket, we’ll leave you with Sartre illustrating how even personal decisions can radiate outwards, “In fashioning myself I fashion man.” Within each of us, overlapping and intertwining motivations help us fashion ourselves and our morals, and much of the time we would like to see the rest of the world follow suit. Have we met nudists that only want for the whole of humanity to shed these rags we affix to ourselves on the regular? Absolutely. Transplant this model onto an aversion to human suffering and now we’re talking.
Skepticism as Solidarity
Something like this line of reasoning has been recycled and repurposed for as long as mankind has known anything. Intense personal feelings such as love, kinship and solidarity are unquestionably responsible for shaping moral values, and yet we struggle to exorcise this suspicion of non-believers. If anything, as Andrei Volkov points out, non-believers and skeptics may have incredibly compelling reasons for caring about others.
In this sense, the Effective Altruism movement, largely populated by the skeptical, secular, rational, and atheistic types, makes sense. The often principled and examined lives of this crowd, continually shaped and enriched by facts and new information, fit neatly within a charitable cause that are primarily evidence-based. The utilitarian bent of the movement, which advocates doing the most good for the greatest number, appeals to nearly everyone. And the insistence on making critical decisions with evidence and reason (e.g. randomized control trials, external evaluations) would motivate nearly everyone as well, and particularly the Skeptics For Charity submovement taking shape.
These developments carry practical weight when considering that Givewell, the flagship charity evaluator of the EA movement, is now moving more money than Charity Navigator. Channeling science and skeptical inquiry into the most pressing problems facing humanity is itself a form of activism--a desire to see our exacting taste for evidence and accountability reflected back at us in charity. We want this for others because we would want it for ourselves. The demand for others to receive the same standards as we enjoy is as real as any other cause.
The same evidence and calculations used to determine the truth about our charitable efforts also reveals that we need not sacrifice our lifestyle to have an impact. Our currency has potentially 100x the spending power elsewhere which means we can simply leverage scientific techniques to effect massive-scale social change without losing what we have. Skeptics For Charity is currently running a pledge initiative that allows everyone to make a massive ripples in global poverty that can be found here. The adage (mis)attributed to Dostoevsky “without belief in god, anything is permitted” likely reads differently to an Effective Altruist and Skeptic For Charity than most. Absent the assumption of god and all the mandated morality that follows, we are freer to form a values system based on human solidarity and a commitment to ensuring that we’re truly making the impact we want for others.
[Joey Savoie is the Executive Director of Charity Science and Tee Barnett is the Programs and Educational Officer at Charity Science]
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