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Why the SmartGiving Subreddit Isn't Interested in Your Charity

July 13th, 2012
giving

In general, an appeal for your favorite charity is not appropriate on the SmartGiving subreddit. Which may be surprising: your charity is helping people, actually making a difference in peoples lives, and don't these people deserve our help? Why wouldn't we want to hear about it and support it? Aren't we generous people interested in giving opportunities? Yesterday someone posted:

Would you give these kids a second chance?

Charity X is a nonprofit organization that helps home adolescent children from dysfunctional backgrounds and teach them how to interact with the world. These kids are not bad kids, though they have made mistakes. They want and are willing to change. By spreading Charity X's name, you can help give these kids a second chance. Please give them that chance.

The problem is that there are too many people in the world that need help. Even if we work as hard as we can to eradicate malaria and other neglected tropical diseases, some people will still die. Other people will suffer needlessly from intestinal parasites, limiting their cognitive development and causing them pain. There are people receiving vaccines that have lost potency because the distributing organizations don't have the logistical capacity to keep them consistently refrigerated through their entire transportation system. There are effective charities working to fix all three of these [1], and in general there are so many ways to help people that we need to apply a form of triage: where can our money do the most good?

This means asking ourselves not just "is this organization doing something valuable?" (yes!) or "do these people deserve help?" (of course!) but "is this organization better than all the competing ones?" That's a very high standard. If you found your favorite charity by personal appeal, friendship with people working there, being personally helped, or anything other than a thorough search for the best one, it's very unlikely to meet it.

[1] The Against Malaria Foundation, the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, and Village Reach. Links are to their GiveWell reviews.

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