Before I get to it, I want to mention an economic law that will help you decide what charities you want to support. The law of decreasing marginal utility says that each additional unit will have less of an overall impact. Let me give an example or two. Say you give $1,000 to Red Cross. With the nearly billion dollars that the charity has to spend, your money will not be able to go as far. It may be absorbed into a director’s salary, or be spent entirely on band-aids, etc. If you give $1,000 to a charity that only rakes in $50,000 a year, on the other hand, you have effectively given 2% of the organization’s total revenues, and it can be more exactly put toward the particular place that you would like it to go. Another way to think about it is as the ultimate result. Imagine that your money goes to dig a well or train an engineer in an area where there are only 2 other wells/engineers. This means that your donation has increased the amount of wells/engineers by 50%. Say you do the same in an area in which there are 1,000 wells or engineers. The law of decreasing marginal utility applies, and it does less good than the circumstance in which wells/engineers are very scarce. It is due to this law that I have decided not to give to my parish (which raised $850K in 3 weeks), or my universities. Why give money to those who already have it? In fact, I think that my charity work will always be for a place that is more destitute than the U.S. There are just so many other places that need it that we should care about…
Some of the fun of having a job is being able to choose the charities you want to support. Here are a few that I will be giving to this year, and I would recommend them for anyone struggling to find a charity that doesn’t waste money (I looked around for a long time to find these).
- EKARI Foundation – A charity that puts kids through school in Malawi, from high school through university or trade school. The staff is very small, and each dollar goes much further than it would in an education setting here.
- Charity Water – A charity in which 100% of every public donation given goes to digging wells and increasing the supply of blue gold in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Catholic Relief Services – A charity that disregards the above law in some ways (because it is huge), and has all sorts of departments/sectors you can donate to, such as HIV/AIDS, Small Business Finance, Feeding the Poor, General Health, etc.
- Mises.org – The modern home of Austrian Economics. I figure I want one charity that is completely secular in nature.
- O’Dea High School – My high school, which is an all-boys Catholic high school that happens to have the least amount of money (and charge the least) of any private school in the Seattle Area. It is run by the Christian Brothers, and many students cannot pay their own way.
It also helps to give to charity if you want to stick it to the Man, as long as your donations are for a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. So get out there, do a little research, and help those who need it!