UPDATED March 6th, 2019 — the current recipient of my Giving What We Can pledge donations is the Against Malaria Foundation, and i do not presently donate to GiveDirectly. I still believe GiveDirectly is an amazing project, and stand by what i wrote below — we will have much to credit them for challenging the status quo in philanthropy and raising the bar for what constitutes a good charity. I occasionally talk about my charitable decisions on my newsletter — sign up if you’d like to hear more:
What would you do with an extra $1,000?
This piece is crossposted on the GiveDirectly blog, for which it was originally written.
I would personally take a couple of months off and ride my bicycle solo from Copenhagen to Istanbul. In fact, that’s what I just did, and $1,000, the size of a typical GiveDirectly grant, is just about how much the whole operation cost me — including travel insurance and transportation back home. Growing up in a mid-lower class family in Brazil, I had always dreamed of traveling and experiencing the world like that. But I hadn’t had the financial means and opportunity until recently, after a couple of years at a well-paying job which allowed me to save some money and fund the trip myself.
Those were what I judged to be my needs at the moment. Neither cigarettes or alcohol, nor another job, nor anything else. I don’t believe anybody could have made a better decision on my behalf. In fact, few people even understand what I chose to do with that time and money. And yet this experience, which I would hardly call an extended vacation, has made me feel alive in a way I hadn’t for years, and dramatically changed the course of my life. I came back a different person, with a whole new set of values and opportunities to pursue.
That roughly summarizes why I have supported GiveDirectly, and will continue to donate 10% of my gross earnings to them, as well as promote them in social media and real life. My vision is a world where everybody has the autonomy to decide their own fate. GiveDirectly’s diligent and incredibly transparent work, repeatedly vetted for several years in a row by reputable charity evaluator GiveWell, has shown that giving cash directly to the poor and letting them judge for themselves, within their context, what to do with it to improve their own lives might be a great way to realize that vision — if not the best!