Why I’ve taken the Giving What We Can pledge

The global poor will benefit much more from ten percent of my income than I will

TL;DR: I’m pledging to give at least ten percent of my income to highly effective charities from 2019 on. For this year, I’m giving mostly to GiveDirectly (which provides direct cash transfers to extremely poor households) and GiveWell (which directs donations quarterly at its discretion, generally to life-saving treatments like malaria bed nets). To join me and the over 4,400 members of Giving What We Can, visit givingwhatwecan.org/pledge.

GiveWell’s logo as of 2012 (they’ve since scrapped the slogan)

Effective Altruism

Over this period, I also learned more about the effective altruism (EA) movement. EA began with global development in mind, making GiveWell a sort of standard-bearer. It’s since expanded into charities promoting animal welfare and reducing the risk of massive disasters — e.g. by improving the safety of artificial intelligence systems and nuclear arsenals, and preparing for pandemics — and supporting individuals seeking to dedicate their careers to these issues rather than only donating to them.

How I’m giving this year

At this point it may not be surprising that I’m giving to GiveWell and GiveDirectly: I’m giving each of them five percent of my 2019 income.

Source: GiveWell
  • Citizens’ Climate Education, which educates the public about carbon fee-and-dividend policies. They’re the 501(c)3 arm of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which I joined in early 2019. EAs tend not to emphasize climate change because, while it is clearly important, it’s far from neglected. However, I believe carbon pricing is worthwhile because it has greater potential to cut emissions than any other policy, and it lacks the grassroots support of other environmental organizations like the Sunrise Movement or the Sierra Club. Citizens’ Climate Lobby has organized carbon pricing advocates since 2007, and it now has a bill in Congress with 75 cosponsors.

Until next time

I plan to do another recap like this next year, and hope it will include a new charity or two. For example, I didn’t donate to non-GiveWell EA charities like “longtermism” (AI, nuclear, and pandemic safety); meta EA (supporting organizations like Giving What We Can); or animal welfare. I don’t yet have confidence that these areas are worth diversifying away from GiveWell and GiveDirectly, but I expect that that could change with more research. Now that my stakes are higher, I’m looking forward to researching how to make my giving count even more.

Economist. Founder and president of the UBI Center. Studied at MIT and UC Berkeley. YIMBY. Former Google data scientist.