You know how you get excited to do all sorts of stuff, but you forget and it doesn't pan out? Well, like I wrote in "The Joys of Public Accountability," making a public commitment helps you follow up with things.
I'm going to set aside some of my income for charity henceforth forever. I'm thinking 10%, but I'm not sure yet. I just listened to the audiobook of "The Richest Man in Babylon," and it was really amazingly excellent and it's got me inspired. I ran a couple small charity events in the past in London, and given a bit of money to charity, but nothing systematically. So, I'm committing to doing that.
To clarify a few points -
Note that I wrote "set aside" - I'm not going to dump the money on whoever has nice marketing materials, I really need to do some research. If I've got the money sitting in a bank account marked for charity for a year or two before figuring out what has high impact, so be it. The path to hell is paved with good intentions, and I want to make sure I'm supporting the right causes. I'll let you know the who/what/when/where/why/how of how I'll be going about charity later.
Note that I wrote "some of my income" - I'm not sure exactly what I'll donate on. All cash received annually? Earned income? How about if I get stock options as part of a deal? How about if I'm in a deal where I've agreed to automatically reinvest the profits for the first few years? Only when I cash out? I'm not sure on these details yet. Definitely earned income cash, at least. I'll figure out the specifics later.
10% - more? less? Seems like a decent starting point.
"henceforth" - starting right now.
"forever" - I think so.
At first I was thinking, "I'll donate everything over a certain number after basic expenses are covered." Then I was like, "Who am I kidding?" I think it was Tony Robbins who said, "It's a lot easier to donate a dime out of a dollar than a hundred thousand out of a million." That makes sense. I figure if I can't give a buck out of the next ten I make, then I'm unlikely to ever start. There'll always be excuses, necessary expenses, reasons why it isn't the right time, whatever.
I might start a charity someday. I think most charities are run with good intentions, but don't produce results anywhere near what they could and should. They ignore basic understood principles like running controlled experiments - why not measure the effects in three different places? Do two different styles of charity in two places, and in a third just measure and review without any aid? That's basic, basic stuff right there. "Split test" the effectiveness among two groups, and have a control group so you see what the baseline is.
Why don't charities do this? Well, I think because they're full of good intentions, but don't have enough hard-nosed hard-assed results getters in their organizations. Well, I try to be friendly, but I also try to be a hard-nosed hard-assed results getter when it's called for. And I do think putting devoting resources to helping people calls for some hard-nosed hard-assets results getting. It's important enough that we shouldn't just screw around and hope for the best.
If you're in philanthropy and you want to talk over how you could measure the impact and results of what you're doing, drop me a line. I think good intentions are great, but good intentions producing bad results are less great.
But anyway, I'm on a tangent. I'm committing to henceforth putting 10%-ish of my income to charity. I'll figure out the details later, but wanted to make the commitment now.
In case you or any of your other readers don't know them, Givewell (http://www.givewell.org/) is worth paying attention to (on the question of which charities are effective).
I think people in general donate too little - way too little. If everyone citizen would donate about 5%, great things could be accomplished. I'm currently at 5% of my income which is automatically transfered every month, and another 0-5% depending on the month. However as a student, it's not much absolutely speaking, and it's even harder to donate more..
I think that's a great idea. Most of charitable giving has been to the SENS Foundation (Sens.org , working on the elements of the diseases of aging that the rest of the medical world isn't focusing on because they still consider that it's natural to get frail and sick as we get old) because I consider that it's where my dollars can have the biggest impact and potentially help the most people for the longest time. It's definitely important not to just give randomly, though that's probably better than nothing.
Yesterday I asked you to think in, "A Brain Teaser With a Right Answer" -
What’s the difference between a person who is genuinely very useful and a person who just does useful things for people all the time because he wants to appear to be very useful?
I got a bunch of good comments and perspectives. A couple people nailed the answer I'd give dead-on, or wrote similar -
"There isn't one."
It's always interesting for me to see how people weight intentions and results.
I have way too much time on my hands and I already have a very detailed answer to this.. I was wondering if anyone else does too? I think about it often. I guess it's nice to escape reality like that. Pardon my list. It's pretty lengthy.
Here's what I would do with it. (This is not the complete list and this is not in order)
I don't know what else. I'm definitely not going to splurge on random stuff like parties or something crazy like that. I know statistics and most people would go broke in a couple of years. I'm sure I'll figure out something to do.