Archive for December, 2012

updates on donating money

Thanks to everyone who’s given feedback on the previous post!  A few updates on donating criteria, literacy, and global family planning:

1. One reader wrote:

I like a lot of what you wrote, but here’s a criterion I didn’t see there, but which makes sense to me: if huge funding sources are already available to a project (e.g. Gates Foundation) I’m pretty sure my impact will not be that significant. It might make more sense to focus on organizations that do not (or do not yet) have such resources available to them.

I think this is a very good point.  I think it’s likely that a lot of organizations without funding from large foundations may not have funding because they don’t have much evidence of effectiveness.  But that’s surely not always true, and all other things being equal, your contribution will go much further in an organization that doesn’t have huge grants.

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where should I donate money?

As the year draws to a close, I am trying to decide where to donate money, and feeling grateful that my company is generous enough to match my donations.

There are lots of guides for how to give wisely out there: (e.g., GiveWell’s basic, advanced, and now vs. later analysis; GivingWhatWeCan’s tipsCharityNavigator — caveat: why effectiveness, not efficiency, should be the focus of donations).  Many experts and evaluative organizations have also made  endorsements for where to give (e.g., GiveWell’s top three charities, Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy’s list of social programs that workPhilanthropedia’s top charities in many categories).  Effectivism has also covered methods for evaluating charities multiple times. Despite these tips, I’ve spent probably around 30 hours in the past few months trying to decide where and how to donate money this year.

I decided to show my work in case it’s useful for anyone else who’s trying to prioritize.  I’m not saying anyone else should have the same principles or choose the same charities.  But perhaps my thinking will help you with your own.

First, my criteria for choosing causes: » Continue reading “where should I donate money?”

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getting rid of junk mail: follow up

After my last post, I spent a couple months using the PaperKarma app, and saw depressingly little reduction in junk mail.  It’s a neat idea, and it definitely had some effect, but a lot of catalogs just ignored it, as did all the circulars.  US Airways took me off their mailing list — and sent me a nice snail mail letter to confirm.  :)  I think a number of charities have taken me off their mailing list, but so many charities solicit me (and sell my address to yet new charities, or to the old ones who had me off their list for a while) that it’s hard to tell.  The app is too much effort to use given this.  Okay, you basically just have to take a photo of each piece of mail using your smartphone, but I get a lot of mail.  You also have to check that it recognized the mail correctly.

After giving PaperKarma a few months, I tried getting rid of circulars directly: Valpak, Pennysaver, and Redplum.  Sure enough — after about 6 weeks — I stopped getting their bulky ads.  This was excellent news!

I just used YellowPagesOptOut to opt out of 6 local phonebooks (theoretically — not confirmed yet).  I also opted out of credit cards for 5 years at OptOutPrescreen (as recommended by the FTC) — they also offer a permanent opt-out for people who want to print and mail a form, but I’m hoping that by the time 5 years are up, I’ll be able to do it online.  ;)  I tried DMAchoice (for catalogs, magazines, and other mail offers), but found it too onerous — they give you (sometimes inaccurate) contact info for each company.

Next, I’m going to try 41pounds, which costs $35 for 5 years.  Although I wanted to first evaluate the free options on behalf of everyone who would rather spend time than money, I have run out of patience with bad websites, and also with killing trees.  $7/year is definitely worth it to me if effective — and their self-reported impact is large.  I’m going to have to list all the catalogs and charities who solicit me — fortunately, PaperKarma keeps a record of my requests which will help me remember.  I’ll report back.

I’m still curious to hear the results of anyone else who has tried any of the measures I suggested — or anyone who knows of other good resources!

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