Giving 101: the basics

The key principles we recommend you keep in mind when deciding where to give:

  • Your donation can change someone's life. For a few thousand dollars you can literally save someone's life in the developing world. This claim isn't a normal "marketing pitch" you read in direct mail solicitations – it's the result that outstanding charities we've looked at achieve -- and you can count on them. For more, see:

  • The wrong donation can accomplish nothing. Charities that demonstrably change lives are the exception, not the rule. Why? Fundraising often involves social and emotional manipulation, and almost never involves fact-based demonstrations of programs' effectiveness. This means that lots of charities raise money and run programs without ever demonstrating that their programs actually work. Why should charities have to demonstrate that their programs work? Isn't it obvious that most programs charities run help people?

    It's not. Experts, governments and foundations have tried and failed for decades to solve many of the same problems charities are working on. This all means that there are lots of charities out there that probably aren't actually accomplishing much at all. For more, see:

  • Your dollar goes further overseas. Ultimately, there's no "right" answer to the question of which cause you should support. As you consider that decision, it's worth recognizing that the impact you can have with your donation varies greatly between causes. If you focus on education in NYC, it costs over $100,000 to educate a student throughout 12 years of school. When supporting international aid, you can save a person's life for approximately $3,400. That doesn't mean you should necessarily support international aid; but, just like any time you spend your money, it's important to know what you're getting. For more, see:
  • Your dollar goes further when you fund the right program. Let's say you've settled on the cause you care about, for example HIV/AIDS in Africa, and you're ready to choose a charity. Depending on the approach and charity you choose, the impact of your donation will vary widely, from (a) $150 to prevent a case of HIV/AIDS to (b) $1,500-$5,500 to treat (not cure) the disease for 10 years, or (c) no impact at all if you support programs that just don't work or charities that don't run their programs well. For more, see:

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