Giving what I can -- 2015

I've informally decided to allocate roughly ten percent of my gross annual earnings to donations, in the spirit of Effective Altruism and the "Giving What We Can" pledge. As public reporting of contributions is rather in line with the EA philosophy, I'm keeping a record of what I've done. Maybe it will inspire people to imitate or critique my donation choices!

I donated a total of $500 in December 2015. This year, since I didn't earn a lot of money, was mostly about starting to give, and establishing a baseline from which I can iterate and move towards a more satisfactory and effective contribution portfolio. So in future, I suspect that my contributions to, say the "De Facto Subscription" category will stay flat while donations to actual charities will increase.

You might ask: why are you publishing this? The answer is: Other people have. Also, why should charity be secret?

Humanities Donations: 5%

In 2015, I donated $25 to Humanities causes; in this case, the Seattle Art Museum. I like art a lot, but I only got to go to SAM twice this year. If kicking some extra money their way helps bring more great exhibits like the Impressionists to Seattle, I'm cool with that. So while this donation is tax-deductible, it's more signaling or hedonic-value-revealing than charity per se. In future years I'll just buy a membership.

Science Donations: 5%

In 2015, I donated $25 to Science causes; in this case, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

De Facto Subscription Donations: 5%

Also known as the "Stuff I use for free but still needs money" donations. I chipped $5 towards each of the Wikimedia Foundation, Mozilla Foundation, Linux Foundation, Internet Archive, and Linux Mint. I value their services and products at least as highly as $5 each, so this seemed like a fair contribution.

Political Advocacy: 20%

There's something to be said for political advocacy (cf. David Brin's essay on proxy power)—people generally have more money than time or skill to contribute to any political causes they support. I bought memberships to the ACLU of Washington State (civil liberties) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (freedom of information online), and donated to the Skeptic Society (scientific skepticism), Project Witness (citizen journalism), and the Planetary Society (spaaaaaaace). Next year I'll make a priority of researching more local-to-Washington-State advocacy groups, since local politics is often much more immediate than federal.

Domestic Charity: 10%

Foreign charity may be more globally effective, but there are still causes I care about closer to home. I put $25 towards Camp Quest Northwest because even though I already volunteer with them, I want to help them meet financial goals too; and $25 to YouthCare, helping homeless and at-risk youth. That's something I don't think I could actually volunteer for (it's just way too intense), so I'm donating instead.

Foreign Charity: 55%

This is my bit of effective altruism. Per the research conducted by GiveWell, a charity evaluator, I sent $275 to "effective" charities: $250 to the organizations proper, and $25 to GiveWell to support their ongoing research and evaluations.


I invite anyone who's interested to comment, either below or by email (me [at] stephenmeansme [dot] com)...