December 23rd, 2014
12:34 AM ET

Want to give to charity? Look at impact

By Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Editor's note: Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn are the authors of A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity. This is the first in a series of three guest posts.

One of the mistakes we make is that we mostly give to those who ask. And those groups that are good at asking aren’t necessarily the same ones that are good at spending. So we wrote A Path Appears partly to highlight some great organizations that are doing a remarkable job sprinkling opportunity worldwide – whether that’s through empowering women, chipping away at poverty, or bolstering health and education.

We would never buy a television from a marketer who cold calls us on the telephone. Yet remarkably often we donate to cold callers from charities, even though we know nothing about the charity. The caller drops key words like “children with cancer” or “disabled veterans” and we are guilt-tripped into donating, even though we know nothing about the organization or even if it’s a genuine charity. So try to think of charitable giving as an investment, indeed one that can have a greater impact than money flowing into your retirement. For charitable donations can save lives, and turn kids’ trajectories around.

So don’t just focus on a charity’s financial ratios or its overhead, but look at impact. Traditionally, non-profits have focused on inputs. Instead we should focus on outputs and impact. We write about GiveWell, run by two former hedge fund analysts who rank organizations based on effective outcomes and the biggest bang for the buck. And in the back of the book we list some great organizations working in the United States and abroad to bring about change.

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Topics: Development

soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Lalitha Natarajan

    Reblogged this on lalithanatarajan.

    December 23, 2014 at 1:58 am | Reply
    • rupert

      Good. Glad to know u re-blogged Lalitha. Hey nice blouse u have on. But white is a little too reserve.
      Why not try burgandy? A little more revealing too if possible.

      December 23, 2014 at 10:22 pm | Reply
    • rupert

      @Lalitha. U look awesome as it is already. On second thought, maybe u shouldn't wear burgandy and be more revealing because then if u do, you'll look so hot, that you'll melt my cell phone.

      Cheers & merry xmas.

      December 24, 2014 at 7:32 am | Reply
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    Governments that tax heavily for social programs lessen the intensity of desire to give to those who are less fortunate than the successful citizens who are able to provide for themselves and others.
    A major problem of governmentally enforced giving of alms is the removal from donors of any selectivity in the dispensations of the charity, resultng in the giving of far more fish than fishing poles.
    Fishing poles change lives. Free fish only delay the need for more free fish.
    Citizens in overly socialized nations often feel that they have already given enough, and in fact they have.
    There is no free fish.

    December 23, 2014 at 8:27 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

      Merry Christmas. God bless us, one and all.

      December 23, 2014 at 8:30 am | Reply
      • Philip

        What God are you talking about, Joey?

        December 23, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

        Thank you, Joey. It appears that most ignorant bloggers here are pure atheists who cannot think!

        December 23, 2014 at 5:47 pm |
      • rupert

        @Philip & joey in black.
        What God do u think he's talking about u stupid ignoramus'.
        The father of Jesus cuz of Christmas. Duhh.
        Can't be budda or allah can it? They don't celebrate santa or Christmas.
        Take the thumb out of your a.s.z the both of u next time and THINK. GOOD GRIEF. WHAT A PAIR OF BLOG-TARDS

        December 23, 2014 at 9:55 pm |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    For those who actually go into grocery stores and buy their own food instead of sending house staff members, it has become comforting to ignore some parts of labels on lots of items.
    Social programs enable many to buy food and stuff. This is "demand-side" economics.
    The more folks you have who are willing and able to buy an item, say a pound of coffee, the more likely a supplier is to raise the price of that pound of coffee.
    Buyers of coffee, and economists, and politicians, might see that rising price as inflation. We don't like to make waves.
    A neat trick, benefitting most folks, is not to raise the price of coffee, but instead to make a slightly smaller can to sell for just about the same price.
    I notice that cans get a little smaller all the time. Prices are pretty fair, aren't they? On just about everything?
    I'm glad that there's not much inflation.
    That sorta goes along with the decline of unemployment. Check out the number of applications for unemployment checks. Looks good.

    December 23, 2014 at 9:11 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

      Something else good to fluctuate because bad guys undercut the going rate of stiff and labor.
      Governments can control that by law.
      If commerce gets out of control, the government can just take over a portion of the commerce. Then you have the best of all possible worlds.

      December 23, 2014 at 9:31 am | Reply
    • rupert

      Joey. I can't argue your supply and demand theory.
      But what if people in your example buy two smaller cans of coffee. What then?

      December 23, 2014 at 10:09 pm | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        Oh, rupert, clearly you have a point. Silly me.
        If in 2012 one pound of coffee in one can cost five dollars, and in 2014 one pound of coffee in two eight-ounce cans costs ten dollars, that is not inflation. Instead of inflation, we call that economic growth.
        The best part is that two persons have a can of coffee, and one of those did not have to go to work to get his, because he has a program.
        Spread the wealth around.

        December 24, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        Aussi, rupert, we know that the insane theory that supply and demand affect the USA's economy has long been questioned.
        Supply and demand might affect economics somewhere else, but not in the Land of the Free.

        December 24, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        Take President Reagan as an example. He talked about "supply-side" economics. That is something that cannot exist, because it is immoral, and therefore in error, a delusion.

        December 24, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        Same freshly roasted coffee, NEW convenient size for IMPROVED handling!
        same low price!

        December 24, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
  4. Philip

    60% of food sold at our nations largest food retailer, Wal-Mart, are paid for using food stamps. About half of US citizens are dependent on aid.
    Meanwhile, about 5 cents out of every dollar given to charities actually goes to help someone in need. 95 cents covers TV commercials and wages of solicitors.

    December 23, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Reply
    • rupert

      @philip. I'll give u .05 cents if u kma

      December 23, 2014 at 10:13 pm | Reply
  5. Philip

    If you want to help people, find someone in need and help them yourself. Giving to charities only makes YOU feel better.

    December 23, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  6. chri§§y

    Am in total agreement with @ philips first 12:55 post!

    December 23, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Reply
    • 12 year old kid

      Then why make fun of me for helping Agboola and Mukazi, Chrissty.

      December 23, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Reply
      • banasy©

        She never has, Philip. Please post where she has.

        December 23, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
  7. banasy©

    Donate to Doctors Without Borders.

    The help they provide is invaluable.

    December 23, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Thank you, banasy. I agree. After all the torture we did at Gitmo, we need to do some good for a change!

      December 23, 2014 at 5:43 pm | Reply
  8. chri§§y

    I havent made fun of you for that @ just not certain that youre being honest. If you are i commend you!

    December 23, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  9. rupert

    @ stupid joey 5:43. If we torchered the right people at the right time, there would never have been a 9/11.
    And there may not have been this war in the middle east.
    Think next time, block head.

    December 23, 2014 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  10. rupert

    It is astounding how people stick up for the enemy and yet enjoy our freedom and security.

    December 23, 2014 at 9:46 pm | Reply
  11. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    Not many agree with me here anymore.
    That"s as it should be: I am changing.
    I did not mention that I am thinking of joining the RomanCatholic Church.

    December 23, 2014 at 10:35 pm | Reply
    • rupert

      I don't know joey. Lots of hassle going to church. I'd rather be in bed.
      I think they're all the same anyway. Budda, allah, God, jesus.

      I mean look at poor steve jobs. He refused doctor care for his illness due to his faith in religion. What did that get him? He's dead now. Went to the doc too late.
      So like where's Budda?

      December 24, 2014 at 2:27 am | Reply
    • banasy©

      Really now.

      December 24, 2014 at 8:34 am | Reply
  12. chri§§y

    Nothing wrong with that @ Joey in blue! Your decision and youre the only one that has to live with it.

    December 23, 2014 at 10:52 pm | Reply
  13. Philip

    Yawn. Never mind me I just got up to go pee. That's pee pee, to rupert.

    December 24, 2014 at 5:42 am | Reply
    • rupert

      Well good for u Philip. I'm glad you're potty trained.

      December 24, 2014 at 7:38 am | Reply
  14. Philip

    Give blood to Vampires without Borders dot org.

    December 24, 2014 at 5:45 am | Reply
    • banasy©

      Of course you would feel that it is better to do only for two that you choose than it is for these doctors that help many.

      December 24, 2014 at 8:31 am | Reply
      • Philip

        We were talking about people actively helping less fortunate ones, bunutzi. Not people helping doctors. You are dumber than dumb.

        December 24, 2014 at 10:50 am |
      • banasy©

        The doctors help people, you ignorant ass. You grow more stupid with every "cause" you decide to rant about.

        December 24, 2014 at 11:00 am |
  15. Philip

    Easy peasey...just watch TV until some fat paid actor comes on and asks that you send money to feed African kids starving because we are gobbling up all their natural resources.
    For less than $1 per day you can feel warm and cozy inside, and display your Free! bumper sticker mentality sticker on the back of your gas guzzler proving you are a good person.
    After you die simply peel-off your bumper sticker and redeem it at Joey's God's house.

    December 24, 2014 at 5:50 am | Reply
  16. chri§§y

    Hmmm just a bundle of cheerfulness arent you?

    December 24, 2014 at 6:25 am | Reply
  17. chri§§y

    Lmao @ rupert...good comeback! 😉

    December 24, 2014 at 7:40 am | Reply
  18. rupert

    Hi chrissy. Philip is so proud of himself. He didn't wet u know where and used the potty all by himself. Now if only blue saffron could do the same.

    I know it is politically incorrect but MERRY CHRISTMAS, cutie patootie.

    December 24, 2014 at 7:49 am | Reply
  19. chri§§y

    Thank you @ rupert, and back atcha!

    December 24, 2014 at 8:20 am | Reply
  20. Philip

    Give to Christian Children's Fund and find out how the preacherman asking that you do can afford to drive a brand new Cadillac and live in a 3 million dollar mansion.

    December 24, 2014 at 10:49 am | Reply
  21. Overly obese Sally Struthers

    Hey! I know what! Give me your donations and some of them will feed starved children and nit just my fat ass.
    God bless.

    December 24, 2014 at 11:33 am | Reply
  22. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    Bah. Humbug.
    I don't believe that any of these people are my cousins' children.
    What the world needs is are bubble lights.

    December 24, 2014 at 6:50 pm | Reply
  23. Harley

    Government should require all charities to be graded as to how much of every dollar donated actually goes to charity cause. This Grade should be required to be clearly included in all advertisements for money. Participants should have the right up front to know how well managed their donated money will be handled.

    May 19, 2015 at 9:04 pm | Reply
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