This may go down in history as the least popular posting on this site, but, in the immortal words of Han Solo, here goes nothing.
Travis recently wondered why my Canadian friends won’t donate to Katrina’s victims. He made a number of salient points, and I commented on his site. As sometimes happens, the comment got long enough to become a post on its own. Here’s a variation of what I said:
I give to charity regularly. There are three kinds of charities I support:
- Hyper-local charities like the Union Gospel Mission. I believe in trying to better your own backyard–act locally and all that. I watch their work down the block from where I live, and am encouraged by what I see.
- Environmental agencies such as the World Wildlife Foundation or the David Suzuki Foundation. I decided a while back that saving the planet’s plants and animals was as or more important to me than easing human suffering.
- Charities that help the world’s poorest people, such as World Vision or Survival International. For these hopeless millions, lacking water, food, medical facilities or housing are daily realities, not the result of freak acts of nature.
In the next four weeks, every American citizen will get the help they need. Fours weeks in the world’s poorest places, the Darfurs and Afghanistans, will see 800,000 people needlessly die.
For reasons that are more instinctual than anything, I’m not a reactive giver. That is, I’ll give roughly the same fraction of my income this year as I did last year, to roughly the same set of charities. Whether there’s a tsunami in Southeast Asia or a hurricane on the Gulf Coast, my habits remains the same.
Charity is an exceptionally personal decision. There are very few non-profit organizations which I would actively discourage you from donating to, so please don’t interpret this as a judgement of how you’re spending your money.
I’ve received a couple of emails from people asking me to highlight this or that cause, so I’ll post those below (feel free to post your own in the comments):