Annual donation rituals?

post by Alexander_Berger · 2021-10-30T21:36:10.124Z · EA · GW · 7 comments

This is a question post.

Our annual donation choice is the biggest financial decision we make in a typical year, but it often feels pretty abstract and disconnected from our lives. I'm wondering if anyone has a form of ritual they do around their donations that help them feel more engaged emotionally. I'm thinking about this less as an intellectual/truth-seeking exercise and more social/familial/emotional. This is also motivated by having a (still very young) kid we're thinking about how to eventually engage with our giving.

One example idea might be a specific family dinner every year where we all research and discuss where we want to give and what the impact might be. (But that might be too theoretical, and I don't want to imply that all donations are equally valuable, or create confusion with kids about who makes the decisions.)

An analogue to a different domain: we often have a party a month or so before an election (in California where there are usually many things on the ballot) where friends pick a proposition to research and present to the group. That both saves some research work and has been a fun form of civic engagement for us. Looking for "similar" ideas for donation decisions.

Would be curious for things other people do, thanks!


answer by Jason Schukraft · 2021-11-01T19:42:43.066Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This is also motivated by having a (still very young) kid we're thinking about how to eventually engage with our giving.

I have a four-year-old and a six-year-old. We discuss our giving with them regularly. When my daughter turned five, we started giving her a weekly allowance with the strong expectation (though no outright requirement) that she would make her own charitable donation every December. During the giving process, we talk a lot about her values and offer guidance, but the ultimate amount and destination of the donation is up to her. Last year she donated $10 (about 10% of her total allowance) to The Nature Conservancy. It will be interesting to see how her decision making evolves over time. (Unfortunately, she seems to be quite swayed by the fact that The Nature Conservancy sent her a calendar!)

answer by AppliedDivinityStudies · 2021-11-01T09:20:56.390Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

One example idea might be a specific family dinner every year where we all research and discuss where we want to give and what the impact might be.

I tried this last year, spent several hours with a friend doing research... and then sighed and gave it all to GiveWell charities as usual.

FWIW, I specifically don't discuss giving with any other friends. Most of them are not EAs, and giving away a significant chunk of money would likely be alienating (for financial reasons), or scrutiny inducing ("aren't you just spending a lot to signal how good you are?"), or politically contentious ("why are you giving to these random charities when Current Political Moment deserves all our attention??").

I gave to ACE charities a while back and got a very nice hand-written card with an animal on it, which I then had up in my room for many months. That's not really a ritual, but I thought it was really great. I would frequently look at the card and immediately feel better about myself and about the world. Also, the animal was extremely cute.

comment by jared_m · 2021-11-02T11:00:05.683Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Cute animal cards never hurt. We bought a mug last winter with the logo of the cause we gave the most to in 2020. It has been a nice reminder of that giving, and well worth the price. (Proceeds from the mug also went to that cause.) 

A few other "end-of-year ritual" thoughts:

1. Outdoor rituals, paired with giving: holiday walks (or kicking a soccer ball around) have made our holidays more memorable. We live near a beach, so giving to environmental and animal welfare charities over coffee feels more meaningful right after watching chipper coastal birds racing around the surf

2. Movie or story rituals, paired with giving: without debating her politics, I think there's a potentially nice model in Elizabeth Warren's annual NYE viewing of Casablanca with her husband. As she has shared several times: "It’s a story about love & sacrifice, & also how people survive & fight back. Every time we watch it on New Year's, it gives me hope." Stories or movies like Casablanca can give one a sense of a) ennobling solidarity, b) perspective that making effective donations and reducing one's bank account is both great to do, and an easier lift for us than (say) fighting totalitarianism has been for many

Replies from: AppliedDivinityStudies
comment by AppliedDivinityStudies · 2021-11-03T10:13:21.980Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Ohh mugs are a great idea! I just found (ACE top charity) the Humane League's gift shop:

Water bottle and mug are pretty compelling.

answer by Neil_Dullaghan · 2021-11-02T18:23:25.755Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I write letters to the future when I give. Sometimes I write what the expected value of the giving was, and future me can reflect on how that panned out. Sometimes I ask my future self how did the world turn out (no replies yet). Present me enjoys getting surprise emails from past me and hearing how excited they were by giving and I get some delight in seeing the through line in my values.

I also get together every few months with a select group of friends and we each give a five minute presentation about an idea we want to share (ranging from serious to silly). Once a year we devote a session to our giving. It works well because it slots into a preexisting ritual we are bought into anyway. Often people offer up their giving record for group review, read out the GiveDirectly Live Newsfeed, do quick fire rounds of the best new opportunities we've given to, or run a mini donor lottery.

answer by evelynciara · 2021-11-04T18:21:09.960Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I've run a birthday fundraiser every year since 2019. This year, I've been raising money for the Clean Air Task Force, and as of November 4 I've raised $375, which is the most money I've ever raised for a birthday fundraiser! Last year, I raised money for the Nuclear Threat Initiative [EA · GW], and the year before, I did AMF.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by JP Addison (jpaddison) · 2021-10-31T11:40:03.032Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hot take: This is one of the largest benefits of the Giving Tuesday shenanigans.