This is a post about giving to charity, what i give and why. It was inspired by a guide to "public giving", a text discussing whether or not to tell people what you give.
Does someone need the money you’re about to spend more than you? If they do, and if you could give them what they need with your money, then isn’t giving your money to them the right thing to do? This important question has started preventing me from spending money on myself in certain situations. As long as my own needs are satisfied with the money I have, then the surplus is unused energy that I am withholding. When I want something that I don’t really need, the question becomes how important satisfaction of my desire is relative to the needs of someone else.
The idea that how you spend your money is up to you underlies our consumerist culture. It is supposedly your right. I don’t wish to challenge you right to property, but my personal view is, that if I have more than enough, then I am stealing from someone else (in more need than I). I have a political right to my property, but I also have an ethical obligation to use my property for purposes beyond my own interests. Friends and family come before strangers, but why should the luxury of friends and family count for more than the needs of strangers? How do you as a rich person (which you most probably are if you live in EU or USA) deal with the question of whether your money could be more ethically spent? How do you defend yourself against it? Where do you draw the line between your rights and your obligations regarding what you own?
These reflections are why I have started giving money to charity. When I read “The Life You Can Save” by Peter Singer, one of my personal heroes, I started giving more. I also went to http://thelifeyoucansave.org and signed “the pledge”, a promise to give some minimum percentage of my income to good causes for the rest of my life. I signed it with 5%. You can sign it here (you are only committed by your word).
Charity and Carbon Offsetting
I have been in doubt whether I should be open about what I give to charity. I don’t want to seem boastful or moralizing. I feel uneasy breaching the rules of social modesty. I don’t give to charity because I want the recognition, but a person who wanted the recognition would of course say the same thing. Still, here are a couple of superior reasons to be public about what I contribute anyway.
Whether (subconsciously) motivated by a desire for recognition or not, our contributions and their effect remain the same. Being open allows others to become aware of how they might do something good for the world. It spreads awareness of all the premature deaths and unnecessary suffering among those living in extreme poverty who we can help. Seeing someone who is devoted to a cause can be inspiring.
Assuming that we have an ethical obligation to share our relative good fortune – both our time and money – then talking about our efforts to fight extreme poverty, for instance, isn't prideful or boastful. Instead, we should view our outspokenness about global poverty as a part of our personal responsibility to the world's neediest people. If we do not talk about our own commitment to a cause, then we are seriously damaging our potential effectiveness by not reaching out to others who can help increase our impact. Moreover, we miss our chance to enable our own family members, friends, and neighbors to influence an even wider circle of passionate, committed, and like minded people.
Those are some reasons to be a public giver. I encourage you to be open as well! Hearing about people who do good makes me happy… Thanks for reading. And wish me luck on keeping my 5% pledge. <3