January 7th, 2011

Continuing the pledge.

Last year around this time, I decided to begin an experiment: to match everything I spend on a non-essential purchase with an equal donation to an effective charity.

The experiment was successful! It succeeded in every way I had hoped it would: I donated much more to charity than I ever had before; I feel great about it; I learned something about my spending patterns; and I had fun in 2010. A lot of fun. (Certain others can attest.)

It also had a further benefit I had not predicted: I learned more about charities and effective philanthropy.

I find that I like this method of determining the amount to donate. It seems less arbitrary than choosing a percentage of income, which would leave me wondering whether I picked the right percentage. For the past year, every gift for myself was also a gift for someone else. That feels right, and I'm going to keep doing it.

(In case you're curious: the list of charities.)

(Not wrong, but a little odd to see my real name getting tweeted everywhere. I'm @zestyping on Twitter.)

What's an effective charity?

Thinking about charities to support? Perhaps you have opinions? I think it's good to talk about this stuff openly, so we can learn from and encourage each other.

If you're curious or looking for ideas, these were my top picks in 2010:

A lot of it is international aid, because the effectiveness per dollar seems pretty high there. Second Harvest and Project Respite are due to fundraising efforts by Google coworkers. Berkeley Free Clinic was a shot at doing something local.

It was not very disciplined, though. When I looked back to make this list, I was a little surprised that it was spread out among so many different organizations. I think it might be more efficient to focus on the highest-impact ones, if such a thing can be determined.

It wasn't until after the new year that I found out about Giving What We Can and Give Well. So these are now contenders for ones I missed that I'm considering in 2011:

Which charities do you like, and why? Any important ones that you think are missing?

(Interesting: I just saw that Chris and his wife Madeleine posted their lists too.)