You may have noticed that the last few days have been quite geared towards consumerism.
First, you had Black Friday, which in many places now actually starts on Thanksgiving.
Next came Small Business Saturday, which came about as a response to Black Friday intended to help smaller companies keep up with the big box stores.
And finally, yesterday, we had Cyber Monday, when the online retailers follow suit.
That’s quite a few days aimed directly at getting us to buy more things.
If you’re frustrated by the increasing consumerism and focus on buying stuff that has consumed the weekend after Thanksgiving, you are not alone. One group is trying to shift the focus from consumerism to charity.
Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation. The idea was to “kick off the charitable season” and turn people’s attention from buying things to helping those who are less fortunate.
And it is working. According to givingtuesday.org, they raised over $116,000,000 last year from 700,000 people in 70 countries.
Helping Others…and Yourself
Obviously giving to charity helps other people, but also helps you.
We’ve already talked about how performing acts of kindness for others can make you happier. This is a similar idea. By donating your time or money to a charity, you are performing an act of kindness for a stranger who is less fortunate.
Similarly, studies have found that donating to charity leads to greater happiness, decreased depression, better immune systems, and elevated dopamine levels. Strangely enough, one study even found that “givers benefited more than receivers.”
So we know that donating to charity will make you happier, but interestingly it also has been shown to make you feel more wealthy. Giving away your time and money makes you feel like you have an abundance of each.
By giving to charity, you will help others while making yourself feel happier and wealthier. Convinced yet?
How to Help
If you’re looking to volunteer your time, the Giving Tuesday website lets you search for charities in your area that may be looking for volunteers.
If you are looking to donate money, I am a big fan of Effective Altruism. The idea behind Effective Altruism is to mix compassion and statistics to find the most efficient ways to help people that need it. We can look at the statistics and research to determine how easy and affordable it is to save and improve lives.
Spoiler alert: it’s extremely easy and affordable to save the lives of children that are dying from preventable diseases in poor countries.
If you’d like an introduction to Effective Altruism, please check out this TED Talk on the subject from Peter Singer.
My personal introduction to the Effective Altruism movement was through the book Doing Good Better by William MacAskill, which I highly recommend to anyone that is interested.
My current favorite charity to which to donate is GiveDirectly. GiveDirectly does exactly what it sounds like: it gives money directly to the extreme poor.
The research behind these types of direct cash transfers to poor individuals is extensive and impressive. They lead to healthier babies, increased school attendance, and decreased child labor. They also lead to significantly increased earnings over the long term, as the recipients can invest in assets or skills to improve their earning ability. Studies have also found improvements in food security and mental health as well as a decrease in domestic violence.
15% of the world lives in extreme poverty, which is defined as making less than $2 per day. This means that a donation of $730 would be equivalent to a full year’s salary. It would be like a U.S. household being given over $50,000. It can be a life changing amount of money, and it isn’t really all that much for most Americans.
I could go on at length about Effective Altruism (and may do so in the future), but that was not supposed to be the point of this article. As such, I will just reiterate that I recommend checking out GiveDirectly, and point you to a few really well-researched lists of effective charities from GiveWell, Giving What We Can, and The Life You Can Save.
If you are more into donating domestically (while donations in the U.S. are not as effective as donations in poorer countries, there are certainly still worthy causes), then I will endorse the list at the end of this article from Our Next Life.
Regardless of where you choose to donate your time or money, I highly recommend giving to charity for the good that you will do both for others and for yourself.