It’s Giving Tuesday, and that means you’ll be getting a lot of emails today. You might even get to use the hashtag! (#GivingTuesday)
But there’s also a story in the nonprofit world that you probably won’t hear today—a lot of us are pretty terrible. From the shrieking headlines of the Daily Mail to the never-ending sins of TOMS Shoes, there are certainly times when we don’t have a lot to show for the effort we put in.
You might’ve even heard of some of us that are damn despicable.
Homeopaths Without Borders offers humanitarian treatment to individuals in the form of what is entirely bogus medicine. (Do I really have to prove this to anyone? Here, here, and here. Let’s add Wikipedia just to be sure.)
Working in several Central American and Caribbean nations, Homeopaths Without Borders provided emergency aid in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. Beyond simply wasting resources in the name of pseudo-science, Homeopaths Without Borders is immensely cruel, offering false hope to the poor with every “treatment.” They also recently toasted graduates of their alternative healthcare education program in Haiti.
But we should remember that the vast majority of nonprofits are not like this. And this Giving Tuesday, I think we can be grateful for the work that charity evaluators like GiveWell and Giving What We Can do to recommend charities that are having a high impact. These recommended charities have been vetted for what your dollar can accomplish.
GiveDirectly is one such charity, receiving attention and praise from The Economist, The Atlantic, and NPR. GiveDirectly’s work is so simple that it’s pretty incredible no one has tried it before—give money to the poor, with no intention of guiding how it’s spent.
The latest study of GiveDirectly’s approach has shown that recipients do not spend more money on vices like alcohol or tobacco, and more importantly, seem to be much happier with their cash. Self-reported happiness and well-being shot up among those receiving the cash, and even had positive spillover effects on their neighbors’ happiness. When GiveDirectly increased the size of the cash transfer, blood measurements of the stress hormone cortisol decreased significantly.
And of course, I should mention that this approach has substantial positive impacts on income, hunger, and even female empowerment.
What makes GiveDirectly’s work so interesting, though, is that it operates off a principle not found anywhere else in development work—that individuals are the best creators of their own future. GiveDirectly trusts that individuals know the fine grain details of their lives that matter, and steps back.
Today, you will probably receive charity appeals from every corner, and most of them will have some legitimacy. (That is, unless you’re on a homeopathic mailing list.)
But let’s consider what happens when we donate to one of the most effective charities we have. Let’s consider what happens when we trust what individuals have to say for their own lives. Donate now.