Sept. 10, 2021

5. Where to donate when everyone needs help


Today's letter is about trying to decide where to donate when it seems like everyone needs help:
Is it better to split donations across many groups or pick one to consistently support? I care about so many things its hard to choose, so many people need help these days!

The most important thing is to avoid decision paralysis. Don’t get caught up trying to find the “perfect” or “most efficient” way to help and spend so much time analyzing whether or not you’ve come up with the very best solution and in the meantime, you aren’t helping anyone. Sitting at home and feeling bad about the world’s suffering doesn’t actually accomplish anything. I’d argue it’s probably doing more harm than good because you’re internalizing all of that suffering and not experiencing any release from actually addressing the cognitive dissonance you’re experiencing by observing the suffering and taking no action. That can’t be good for you.

So, do something. You’ve decided you want to donate, that is awesome. I have two questions for you. 

How much time and energy you realistically have to be out there researching and thinking and deciding on where to give your money? If you just don’t have the time, I say pick one place to donate and stick with it for the next 12 months. 

If you’re worried about setting up auto donate because you’re worried you’ll forget about it and discover years later that you’ve given way more than you meant to, then you can also set up auto payment from your bank’s side. Some banks have the feature where you can go online and designate which dates checks will be sent, you specify the recipient’s name and address and how long you want it to go on for. It’s great. Even better than set it and forget it, in a way, because there’s a specified end date. So you could do hat for 6 months or a year and then see how you feel at the end. Many organizations will send regular updates by email to donors and an annual review which can also help you to decide if you want to continue giving to that organization.

If you have a little more time, enough to find more than one place to donate to, I would encourage you to start by picking a theme or a location to orient your giving. You mentioned i your letter that a lot of people need a lot of help nowadays. You could pick a theme like food security, and decide that for the next 6 months or a year, your donations will be focused on the theme of food. Just narrowing it down like that is going to make the decisions a lot easier. You might pick a small number of charities that focus on this topic. For example, the local food bank, or a meal delivery service for vulnerable communities. Rather than a theme, you might pick an area. I really like this idea because you could pick the neighborhood where you live now, or where you grew up and really focus on the local efforts. This is also a great way to get embedded with the local grassroots movements. I think that being involved in a specific neighborhood can also help to take that general vague feeling of doom that can come from reading the national newspapers and to narrow our focus to our neighbors who have specific needs that you can help with. And the benefit of working with local orgs is that they’re precisely aware of the needs in your community.

After a year or two of donating to a handful of charities or going deep with one, you’ll start to get a sense of what sounds more satisfying to you? Knowing that you went wide or knowing that you went deep.

To submit your letter to the show, email spenddonateinvest@gmail.com
To support the show visit buymeacoffee.com/spenddonate

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/spenddonate)
Transcript

Today's letter is about trying to decide where to donate when it seems like everyone needs help:
Is it better to split donations across many groups or pick one to consistently support? I care about so many things its hard to choose, so many people need help these days!

The most important thing is to avoid decision paralysis. Don’t get caught up trying to find the “perfect” or “most efficient” way to help and spend so much time analyzing whether or not you’ve come up with the very best solution and in the meantime, you aren’t helping anyone. Sitting at home and feeling bad about the world’s suffering doesn’t actually accomplish anything. I’d argue it’s probably doing more harm than good because you’re internalizing all of that suffering and not experiencing any release from actually addressing the cognitive dissonance you’re experiencing by observing the suffering and taking no action. That can’t be good for you.

So, do something. You’ve decided you want to donate, that is awesome. I have two questions for you. 

How much time and energy you realistically have to be out there researching and thinking and deciding on where to give your money? If you just don’t have the time, I say pick one place to donate and stick with it for the next 12 months. 

If you’re worried about setting up auto donate because you’re worried you’ll forget about it and discover years later that you’ve given way more than you meant to, then you can also set up auto payment from your bank’s side. Some banks have the feature where you can go online and designate which dates checks will be sent, you specify the recipient’s name and address and how long you want it to go on for. It’s great. Even better than set it and forget it, in a way, because there’s a specified end date. So you could do hat for 6 months or a year and then see how you feel at the end. Many organizations will send regular updates by email to donors and an annual review which can also help you to decide if you want to continue giving to that organization.

If you have a little more time, enough to find more than one place to donate to, I would encourage you to start by picking a theme or a location to orient your giving. You mentioned i your letter that a lot of people need a lot of help nowadays. You could pick a theme like food security, and decide that for the next 6 months or a year, your donations will be focused on the theme of food. Just narrowing it down like that is going to make the decisions a lot easier. You might pick a small number of charities that focus on this topic. For example, the local food bank, or a meal delivery service for vulnerable communities. Rather than a theme, you might pick an area. I really like this idea because you could pick the neighborhood where you live now, or where you grew up and really focus on the local efforts. This is also a great way to get embedded with the local grassroots movements. I think that being involved in a specific neighborhood can also help to take that general vague feeling of doom that can come from reading the national newspapers and to narrow our focus to our neighbors who have specific needs that you can help with. And the benefit of working with local orgs is that they’re precisely aware of the needs in your community.

After a year or two of donating to a handful of charities or going deep with one, you’ll start to get a sense of what sounds more satisfying to you? Knowing that you went wide or knowing that you went deep.

To submit your letter to the show, email spenddonateinvest@gmail.com
To support the show visit buymeacoffee.com/spenddonate