Comparing charities 1

How can we do the most good?
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DanielLC
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Comparing charities 1

Post by DanielLC » Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:33 am

Does anybody know good charities to look into?

I've been doing microcredit. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Loan him a couple of bucks, he buys a fishing pole and eats for a lifetime.
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Re: General charities

Post by Arepo » Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:38 pm

Utilitarianism charity

Charity International - dedicate themselves to specifically utilitarian goals, though the English language pages are a bit vague about what that actually means.

Charity evaluators

GiveWell - the only active organisation that directly compares the effectiveness of charities' goals. [edited in after Toby's post, since it's such an important idea]

Giving What We Can - Toby Ord's had this almost ready to go for what feels like over a year, but once it's finally up I'm hoping it will be the first stop for someone who wants to know not just how efficiently their money is spent on a cause, but how efficient the causes are.

Links page to other evaluating organisations - for anyone who wants to do some serious research.

American Institute of Philanthropy - this page is a nice quick fix. It breaks down charities by activity and then shows you the 'top-rated' charities in your chosen category. Note that although they have a few criteria for their rating, all they're rating is how efficiently the charity promotes its cause. The value of its cause doesn't factor in (so, for eg, they have a category that includes both pro- and anti-gun control charities).

Ethical investment

Triodos Bank - as an alternative to giving your money to charity, you might invest it in an ethical savings account. Ethical accounts still seem to earn significantly less interest than nonspecific investment accounts, but they're by far the most committed bank to ethical investment that I know of (and you can weigh the loss of interest vs the amount you were planning to donate to charity and draw your own conclusions).

Established charities

In Living High and Letting Die, the best argument I've read for charitable donation, Peter Unger specifically names two charities:

Oxfam and Unicef - he also implies that, while they have several operations, both charities are organised enough that you can ask when you donate that your money goes to the area where it will do the most good.



I'd like to see something about environment/population control/animal welfare charities, but I don't know anything about them that 30 seconds on Google or the above links wouldn't reveal...
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Re: General charities

Post by TobyOrd » Wed Dec 03, 2008 10:37 pm

Giving What We Can - Toby Ord's had this almost ready to go for what feels like over a year, but once it's finally up I'm hoping it will be the first stop for someone who wants to know not just how efficiently their money is spent on a cause, but how efficient the causes are.
Yes, I'm afraid I've 'paused' the setting up of GWWC until my thesis is handed in (January?). This delay is frustrating to me too, but seems for the best.
American Institute of Philanthropy - this page is a nice quick fix. It breaks down charities by activity and then shows you the 'top-rated' charities in your chosen category. Note that although they have a few criteria for their rating, all they're rating is how efficiently the charity promotes its cause.
As you mentioned, sites like this (and Charity Navigator) have the problem of completely ignoring the function of the charity. This is the only way they can rate so many charities, but is quite a staggering omission. For example, I found a top rated charity on Charity Navigator and after investigating its website, I found that it was less than one thousandth as efficient at curing blindness as one of my favorite Charities: the Fred Hollows Foundation. The top rated charity could give a blind person a guide dog for each $50,000, while the Fred Hollows foundation can *cure* someone of blindness for $53. You can therefore only use sites like Charity Navigator to check that a charity is not stealing your money. I can't see how it is of any use in distinguishing between two well-run charities.
The value of its cause doesn't factor in (so, for eg, they have a category that includes both pro- and anti-gun control charities).
This is an interesting point. It is so inefficient that there are pro- and anti- gun control charities and pro- and anti-abortion charities. Charities on either side of the divide should be able to agree to 'cancel' off some of their funds and give it to a mutually agreed good cause (like developing world aid). This would do just as much for (or against) gun control as spending it on their zero-sum campaigning, as well as doing additional good for others.

My advice for efficient charities includes Oxfam, Medecins Sans Frontiers, Population Services International and the above mentioned Fred Hollows Foundation.

For resources on charity efficiency, look at the excellent numbers on effectiveness for different types of interventions at the Disease Control Priorities Project. You should also check out the good work of the only organization currently assessing the total good that charities produce and sharing those figures: GiveWell.

For more information on charity effectiveness, check out the Giving What We Can group on FaceBook.

Regards,
Toby.

FYI I've edited your post to spell out the acronyms, which weren't immediately recognisable to me. Hope that's ok - Arepo

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Re: General charities

Post by Arepo » Thu Dec 11, 2008 6:25 pm

Thanks Toby - good luck with your thesis, if you get a chance to read this before you hand it in.

One of the objections I frequently hear to charity (that I'm not above raising myself) is that the root cause of much of the world's poverty (and to a lesser degree other suffering) is basically overpopulation. If so, then supporting charities which just cure/prevent disease etc is ultimately much less effective than supporting those that (humanely) limit population growth somehow. The problem is, the only assessment I've been able to find of such approaches was pretty negative, suggesting that people being given contraceptives in developing countries weren't using them.

I know you don't agree with the overpopulation assessment, but for those who do, or who see ignoring it as too big a risk, do you know of any effective population-limiting charities?

Similar question re the environment, particularly climate change - for those who believe reckon environmental factors will do more harm than any others, do you know enough to highlight charities that combat them effectively?
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Re: General charities

Post by DanielLC » Fri Dec 12, 2008 5:35 pm

While we're at it, there are benefits to global warming. For example, it makes it easier to grow food, and thus could be used to help combat overpopulation (by increasing the capacity of the Earth). Does anybody know of any effective charities to cause global warming?
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Population-limiting charities

Post by Brian Tomasik » Sat Dec 27, 2008 2:51 am

I haven't researched this topic in detail and so would be interested to hear others' suggestions. However, I would guess that Population Services International could be a good choice, even though their main focus is on health rather than population per se. According to GiveWell's summary, 50% of PSI's budget goes toward HIV/AIDS prevention (80% of which takes the form of condoms and other safe-sex approaches) and another 11% goes directly toward pregnancy prevention. And according to PSI's Reproductive Health page,
In 2007, PSI programs provided 12.2 million couple years of protection against pregnancy, averting an estimated 2.6 million unintended pregnancies and 13,400 maternal deaths.

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Re: Comparing charities 1

Post by Arepo » Fri Apr 03, 2009 11:33 pm

Daniel, I've edited your topic title to make it more descriptive than the original 'general charities' - I think the forum software will let you change it back if you're not happy with it, but if you aren't and it doesn't, let me know and I'll change it to your preferred choice.
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"You ought to have put on an old pair, if you wished to go a-diving," said Professor Graham, who had not studied moral philosophy in vain.

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Lobbyist Arms Control

Post by RyanCarey » Sun Apr 05, 2009 3:14 am

Toby Ord said: This is an interesting point. It is so inefficient that there are pro- and anti- gun control charities and pro- and anti-abortion charities. Charities on either side of the divide should be able to agree to 'cancel' off some of their funds and give it to a mutually agreed good cause (like developing world aid). This would do just as much for (or against) gun control as spending it on their zero-sum campaigning, as well as doing additional good for others.
I strongly agree with you and I think this idea must be refined so it can be implemented. If we ask competing lobbyists to agree to commit fair portions of their funds to an agreed charity, then lots more constructive work will be done for society.

However, we would face a powerful objection: "but competing campaigns aren't really zero-sum. Competing campaigns may, on the balance of things, not persuade audiences. But they at least promote interest in the issue. Lobbyists on either side of the fence agree that their issue is important. And they agree that one party is right and that the other is wrong. And if consciousness of the issue is raised, we're a step closer to making appropriate conclusions and actions (on guns, politics, etc)." And we would have to concede this point. Some proportion of what campaigns do is help to build dialogue. However, we could target the campaigning that least persuades and most informs and engages. By being selective in this way, we could put a lot of money towards really constructive causes without removing much money from publicising the issue.

Indeed, the act of putting campaign money towards a worthy cause could attract immense positive publicity in itself. Furthermore, we could dedicate some portion of the committed funds to publicise the lobbyists and explain the exceptional action that they've taken. Of course, there are tough practical issues to overcome like:
> how can we present lobbyists in equal light?
> does fair portions mean equal funds or equal proportions of funds?
But given our ability to reduce wastage of money so dramatically, I think it'd be a shame if we let these practical concerns stop us!
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Lobbyist arms control

Post by Brian Tomasik » Sun Apr 05, 2009 6:11 am

RyanCarey, I like, in theory, the idea of "lobbyist arms control" that you and Toby propose, though my suspicion is that it would be very hard to implement in practice. Part of the difficulty is, as you suggest, quantifying how much each side will cut back (each side can always say that it spends its money more efficiently and therefore would be hurt more by a given reduction in funds). Even worse is that the organizations might fear losing their donors: Why would people send checks to a pro- or anti-choice group that they know will dedicate a portion of their donation for some unrelated purpose? Yes, it does make sense to the extent that it defuses money spent by the other side, but I have a feeling most people wouldn't swallow that kind of reasoning, unfortunately....

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Re: Comparing charities 1

Post by EmbraceUnity » Tue Aug 04, 2009 4:49 pm

I think, all else being equal, it makes sense to choose causes which are obscure. Thus, I tend to rate causes in terms of Utility, Attainability, and Obscurity. I crafted a rudimentary 30 point scale, which I would love some critique on.

http://embraceunity.com/?p=55

Now, I am doing the same for a number of tiny projects which are attempting to decentralize society, since I have determined decentralization as a key factor for ensuring the resilience of both individual efforts and our civilization as a whole.

Examples include:

BOINC projects such as Rosetta@home
Git-Wiki - A distributed, server-less wiki system... imagine if everyone helped host Wikipedia on their computers, and nobody needed to donate to Wikipedia just to keep it running.
auto-net - ad-hoc mesh networking to evade censorship and eliminate the need for payments to telecomm companies
debtorrent - decentralize linux upgrades using p2p file sharing
Open Source Ecology - Open sourcing the tools needed for producing a comfortable, sustainable, and relatively self-sufficient life
...and a bunch more

I will be giving each of these two ratings. The first rating for charitable donations is the same as above, and the second rating for volunteering adds Easiness as a factor.
Last edited by EmbraceUnity on Thu Aug 13, 2009 2:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Comparing charities 1

Post by Arepo » Tue Aug 04, 2009 5:38 pm

Why do you value obscurity, EU? I can imagine it often being a sign that your donation will have a proportionately larger effect on the cause, but if that's the issue then it would surely be simpler to seek increased proportional weight per contribution directly. And it's not obvious that there's anything important about that - if Fred Hollows were a major charity who received billions each year but had not yet cured enough people to raise the cost of their cures to over the current ~$20 and Seeing Eye a minor charity who hardly anyone had heard of, it would still make sense to support the former.

I don't know enough to say anything useful about the weightings in your blog, but one stylistic suggestion is to change 'O' as shorthand for obscurity, even if you keep it as a category - simply because it looks too much like a digit, and makes skimming your weightings harder than it needs to be. For similar aesthetic reasons, it would be clearer to give a new line to each rating:
Prizes for Technology Commons

U=9
A=6
O=8
T=23
rather than

Prizes for Technology Commons (U=9 A=6 O=8) 23
I'd also suggest treating attainability as a measure of probability, somehow, rather than an additional bonus in its own right. Ie. you should multiply utility (and obscurity, if you keep it) by attainability, rather than summing them - so something with utility 5 and probability (0.)5 would be better than something with utility 9 and probability (0.)2. At the moment, the latter would seem better.
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Re: Comparing charities 1

Post by EmbraceUnity » Tue Aug 04, 2009 6:34 pm

The reason I recommend obscure causes is a partial response to the comment posted here. Donating to Oxfam is, in a sense, an empathy tax. The causes Oxfam is dedicated to are for the most part widely recognized as necessary. Thus, this is something which is truly a collective responsibility, and actually individual donations have a perverse incentive which makes the need for collective responsibility seem less urgent.

Obscure causes on the other hand are not widely recognized as useful, and thus individual responsibility is absolutely essential.

Thanks for the pointers about the ranking system. I will think it over, and welcome any more critiques. It would be nice if there were already a formalized method of ranking which I could modify for my purposes (including obscurity, etc)

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Re: Comparing charities 1

Post by Daniel Dorado » Sat Dec 26, 2009 1:00 pm

Animal rights charities

Animal Equality (UK, International) - Animal Equality is an international non-profit organisation dedicated to achieving equal consideration and respect for animals and promotes a vegan lifestyle. It's currently active in Spain, the United Kingdom, Venezuela and Colombia. It works to raise public awareness of the suffering and deaths of non-human animals in our society. It argues that speciesism is the cause of their exploitation and calls for the abolition of animal use while encouraging the public to adopt a vegan lifestyle.

Vegan Outreach (USA) - Animal rights with a utilitarian approach. Nearly all of its resources go for the edition of booklets about animal suffering and veganism. More than 11 million Vegan Outreach booklets have been distributed.

Animal Liberation Victoria (Australia) - With a strong focus on factory farmed animals, they want to abolish the property status of animals. They reject speciesism, and they think that the species of sentient beings is no a reason to deny any individual the basic right not to be the property of others.

If someone lives in another country, I can recommend him another AR charity where he lives.
Last edited by Daniel Dorado on Tue Dec 28, 2010 12:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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In Vitro Meat Research

Post by rory_rocket » Mon Nov 15, 2010 12:07 pm

Cordially,
Mike P. Sinn
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DKT International

Post by rory_rocket » Wed Dec 22, 2010 12:07 am

http://www.dktinternational.org

For $2.29 you can provide a years worth of contraception to a couple in a third world country. That probably prevents one birth.

The average person eats 3,500 animals in their lifetime. So just $2.29 can effectively eliminate 3,500 lifetimes of suffering in factory farms. :o Plus, it probably prevents a painful life of an unwanted child who might end up an orphan. It would also spare that child from or live an otherwise unpleasant life for lack of necessary financial resources to attain adequate food, shelter, and health services.

People in third world countries probably eat far less than 3500 animals but it still seems like the most efficient charity to me. :?: Let me know if you've got a better animal consumption estimate or if you can improve my calculations!
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Re: Comparing charities 1

Post by DanielLC » Wed Dec 22, 2010 1:00 am

Do people in third-world countries get meat from factory farms?

How often do they end up as orphans? Although I'd be more concerned about the fact that they will definitely end up living in a third-world country.

I don't suppose there's any way to convince them and Village Reach to work out how many lives they'd be saving/preventing and donate that to a third charity.
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Re: Comparing charities 1

Post by LadyMorgana » Sun Dec 26, 2010 2:53 pm

Hi Mike :) Glad to see someone else taking these sorts of considerations seriously.
Do people in third-world countries get meat from factory farms?
I think this is a very important point. Preventing one human life in the third world could mean, say, preventing 1000 animal lives (because, on average, that's 1000 less animals that need to be breeded for consumption due to this reduction in demand), but in the third world perhaps it's a good thing that those animals are created and farmed because they live generally moderately happy lives?

The charity that I currently think is the most cost-effective is the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) - an independent organisation has estimated that for £2.14 SCI produces the equivalent of a year of life at full health (http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/resource ... rities.php). But the way they work is important - SCI's work improves the quality of a person's life, by greatly improving their health, and rarely extends it by a significant amount. I like this because it avoids complicated issues like how we can really tell if we're making someone happier, and whether or not creating new life is a good thing in these situations etc.
"Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind" -- Bertrand Russell, Autobiography

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Re: Comparing charities 1

Post by Jesper Östman » Sun Dec 26, 2010 3:30 pm

Daniel, LadyMorgana,
there is some discussion in the beginning of this thread of how likely it is that meat consumed in third-world countries is factory farmed.

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Re: Comparing charities 1

Post by Arepo » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:43 pm

LadyMorgana wrote:But the way they work is important - SCI's work improves the quality of a person's life, by greatly improving their health, and rarely extends it by a significant amount. I like this because it avoids complicated issues like how we can really tell if we're making someone happier, and whether or not creating new life is a good thing in these situations etc.
Another big plus is it makes the population explosion argument much less acute.
"These were my only good shoes."
"You ought to have put on an old pair, if you wished to go a-diving," said Professor Graham, who had not studied moral philosophy in vain.

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