Effective Altruism

Written by
Sam HartonWhite arrow icon

Effective Altruism

Here at Givebutter, we're all about helping you find a better way to give. Whether you’re an ambassador, staff member, or donor, giving probably gives you a sense of fulfillment, joy, and maybe even pride. But philosopher Peter Singer outlined the idea of ‘effective altruism’ in his 2013 TED Talk, explaining that giving not only makes us feel good about ourselves, but we have a moral obligation to help those less fortunate than ourselves in an effective way.

The definition of altruism is “the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.”

The term “disinterested” is what catches my eye. Altruism isn’t helping because it makes you feel good or even because you just like to give but because it is morally and philosophically correct. Empathy and passion are key factors in giving, but altruism can help us view philanthropy in a more practical way so that our giving is as efficient and impactful as possible.

Taking this altruistic approach can help us give in ways that make the most of our money and time. For instance, Singer explains that for $40,000, you can train a seeing eye dog to assist a blind American with daily functions. With the same amount of money, you could cure 400 to 2,000 people in developing countries of blindness from glaucoma, a procedure that costs about $20 per person. So if you’re functioning under the assumption that every life is equal in worth, your money is more well-spent in the latter option.

You don’t have to have $40,000 cash to contribute, though. A philosophy researcher named Tony Ord discovered that with the money he had the potential to make over his lifetime, he could cure 80,000 people of blindness in developing countries and still have enough left to live a perfectly adequate life. Singer’s organization, Giving What We Can, asks donors to contribute 10% of their income to the battle against global poverty.

Almost every nonprofit will tell you that any amount of money helps, it’s just a matter of figuring out where your money can improve the most lives.

Altruism is a brilliant development in the world of giving. It helps us understand how to give more in the most impactful ways. But it’s important not to lose the empathy and passion that got you interested in giving in the first place. Givebutter is all about making giving fun and supporting people with specific charitable passions, but doing some research and taking some lessons from Singer’s more practical approach of effective altruism can help you make sure that your efforts are well spent.

Written By

Written by
Sam Harton