Why I Publicly Pledged to Give Away 10% of My Income

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It feels like there is a lot going wrong in the world at the moment.

Disastrous wars, pandemics, climate problems – the list is endless.

It also tends to feel like it’s basically impossible to have any kind of impact on these catastrophes and threats as an individual.

We’ve all felt the hollowness of donating to charity, but without really thinking that money is going to do anything except make ourselves feel good for a little while.

It doesn’t have to be like that, though.

I’ve become really interested in the idea of Effective Altruism.

This community basically ranks charities based on how effective they actually are – using scientific standards.

So the website GiveWell, for example, describes its mission like this:

“We search for the charities that save or improve lives the most per dollar.” 

This feels like something different to me. It suddenly means the money donated is actually having a real impact on real problems.


What can you do?


With this new knowledge, I decided to do something about it. 

I recently signed a public pledge to donate 10% of my freelance income to these most effective charities.


I've taken a public pledge to give away 10% of my income


With my freelance work, I focus on helping charities, non-profits and ethical organisations achieve their missions and have more impact.

But that’s not really walking the walk. I don’t just help the best businesses, so I wanted to add some more impact to my own business.

I wanted something that will motivate me to earn more and mean that I am having a bit of an impact on the world with all of the work I do. 

It’s a bit cringe to publicly talk about charity and donations, but this pledge seems like a good way to also try and inspire others to do something similar.

Ten percent sounds like quite a lot – and it is quite a lot of your income – but it’s a longstanding tradition in many religions, and seems like a good compromise as a figure.


Should you donate a percentage of your income too?


Obviously, that’s a personal question, but I do think more people should think about it.

I’d recommend giving the book Doing Good Better a read. You can actually get a free copy of it delivered to your house on the 80,000 Hours website. It gives a great overview of the theory and thinking behind the Effective Altruism movement.

Whether you are freelance or in traditional employment, you can take a similar public pledge, and know with confidence that your money is being put to good use.

There is an idea that we should do work that we love and which is meaningful to us, but I think the pledge puts an interesting case against that.

It allows us to actually just do work that we are good at or can make money from and still have a positive impact on causes that are incredibly important.

Of course, it’s an entirely personal decision whether to take a public pledge like this, but speaking personally, seeing the results and transparency of the recommended charities is really inspiring and really encourages me to donate with confidence, whereas previously I probably wouldn’t have in all honesty.

If you are interested in signing up – or just finding out more – you can find all of the details on Giving What We Can’s website.

Until next time,
– Alistair


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