The GiveWell Blog

Giving Carnival 8/07: Bare your soul

This blog is hosting the Giving Carnival this week. The Giving Carnival is a horrible name for the following: the host chooses a topic, anyone who wants to writes/submits a post on that topic, and the host posts links to the ones he wants to (in a space this small, generally everyone) with commentary. It’s like a periodical, but with the advantage that it’s much more of a pain in the neck to read. Get pumped!

This week’s topic is: what charitable cause are you personally most passionate about?

Cancer research? Feeding the homeless? Fighting malaria?

Are you a US kinda person? Or global? Or Topeka, KS?

Please post a comment to this post by midnight of 8/4/07, either linking to your post or containing your response. If you have your own blog, link to your post and include a summary. If you don’t, or want to be anonymous, or just don’t want this on your blog, you can fully participate by comment. I will publish my own roundup the next week, but this way everyone will be able to see the unedited version.

A few requests:

  1. Get personal. Whatever “hats” you wear at your organization or as a blogger, take ’em off, along with your clothes. Tell us what you care about and why.
  2. Be specific. I’m sick of debating things in the abstract like “Should nonprofits make every effort to run as efficiently as possible, while also leaving room for their human side?” No. Next time, maybe. This time, I want to learn something about you and your values.
  3. Fundraisers: please participate! You chose your organization – and with it, your cause – over every other choice in the world. Why? What drives you? If your answer ends up being a plug for your organization, that’s totally fine. Just be personal about what excites you, not what excites others.
  4. No meta-charity or other copouts. Don’t talk about a cause centered on getting others to give more or give better. (I won’t be talking about GiveWell.) I know that technically answers the question, but it won’t be about your values. So if you do work for one of these organizations, write about your favorite sub-cause that your cause helps fund.

Can you tell I’m worried about cop-outs? I think people in this space love to say things that “can’t be argued with,” and they also have a tendency to talk about what we can sell rather than what we should sell. For this carnival/thing, I want you to put your personal values right out there in the open. I want to see passion, values, your bleeding heart laid bare. If there’s some professional reason you can’t do this, just participate anonymously (via comment). (And all non-bloggers are invited to participate via comment as well.)


  • Molly on July 29, 2007 at 1:47 pm said:

    You ask what sort of charitable cause people are most passionate about… location, reason, etc. Having seriously considered it, I almost agreed with your triage approach, which would result in a passion for inner-city schooling, but realized that there was a gut reason why I’m so drawn to 3rd world countries and the poverty over here. When it came to it, I think I take a sorta Rawlsian “original position” attitude… that being, I thought “if I were to be born into a society and had no control over where that was, into which position would I least likely want to be born?” That is my basis for charity, to try to help as many people as possible avoid the worst of scenarios… With this in mind, I have to argue against focusing on the US or developed world. While I realize life, education, etc in NYC is hard, its not void of opportunity… with or without charity, a few special cases will still rise out of the streets. I’m not saying that its easy or that its not critical to have education systems improve, but I do think that if I were to choose lives in which to be born, I would pick life in innercity simply b/c you are surrounded by opportunity even if its extremely difficult. Hence the decision to go third-world.

    Having decided to work in the developing world, again there are about a million different causes & each seem worthy… but I’ve settled on schools for girls often that run away from their homes. I actually have become more & more interested in this though admit I have done little research so I can’t recommend one in particular (though I think Kristof has documented some in his columns) because when I think about all the problems, this is the most poignant. Disease, water, etc is all horrible, but partially fixing one won’t solve the other & a lot of it should be implemented by governments, but the culture girls are subjected to are downright horrific.

    When it comes to “what would I least likely wish to be born into” I can only think of this world in which girls are forced to work at a young age, only to undergo FGM at puberty to be married off to a man at least twice her age. In truth, it disgusts me… what’s even worse is those in many countries such as India who are sold into prostitution… sometimes people like to go with the “ignorance is bliss” argument and claim that people in rural villages actually are happy, well, if you spoke to many women, then you’d learn quite the opposite. No girl, no matter how ignorant, is going to enjoy be married off to an older man at a young age where sex is nothing short of frightening and especially none would say “oh, being a prostitute isn’t that bad”. Yet these girls have absolutely no options, they have nowhere to run and are forced into a miserable world.

    So that’s where my interest in “safe homes” for such girls was sparked… basically, its simple, they are like orphanages for girls who have run away from their husbands (there are also those for child prostitutes), they get meals, a bed, & an education. Sure, they may not go on to an ivy league school, but even life as a cook or other menial job in which they have control over themselves is exceedingly better than anything they would have experienced without such a place.

    A lot of larger projects are frustrating in the sense you are not sure how many lives if any are changed, but these schools really do provide the most basic opportunity for girls to at least escape the worst of the worst. Really, for me, its about providing opportunity and making sure no one is subjected to nothing short of a life of horror. Would I like to see less children die from malaria? Yes… but when it comes to making choices, I’d rather save a single girl from being forced into sex than to provide malaria nets to 50 infants… the latter has the potential to save more lives, but sometimes I think I’d rather die before the age of 2 than to be subjected into the life of the former at age 10.

    Overall, I’m a sexual health/reproductive health person… hence my interest in the clinics for which I support (really, if nothing else can be solved, I feel better knowing we help women get family planning so at least there is control over the amount of children born into these circumstances… from there women can perhaps support fewer children rather than a swarm, if not, at least they are less likely to die during childbirth…) Still, every time I think of child prostitution it makes my blood boil… it truly SICKENS me. Though not quite as bad, child marriage does the same to me… where I am, men get married after they complete their time as a moran (usually mid 30’s) so the first wife they take is already 20 years their minor… it becomes worse when they are on their 5th or 15th wife and are taking some poor child to bed when they are 50+ . Again, blood boiling… so yeah, if you want to hear about passionate causes, that’s mine.

  • Holden on July 30, 2007 at 10:41 am said:

    In My favorite cause, I try to unravel all the interconnected reasons that I find myself most revved up about inner-city education.

  • Phil on July 30, 2007 at 6:16 pm said:

    Blogged My Favorite Cause here.

  • Evonne Heyning on July 31, 2007 at 12:22 pm said:

    Thanks for the challenge.

    Here’s My Personal Passion to share, and will encourage others to pick up this ball and run with it.

    Found you from GiftHub, the tangled webs we weave….

  • Albert Ruesga on July 31, 2007 at 1:56 pm said:

    Here’s my contribution, Holden. Thanks for hosting.

  • Gillian on July 31, 2007 at 4:59 pm said:

    I am passionate about the School of St Jude in Arusha, northern Tanzania. There are three main reasons:

    1. When bright children grow up illiterate, they are condemned to a life of grinding poverty. When this applies to MOST bright children in a country, then the whole country remains one of the poorest in the world.

    2. The School of St Jude is one of the most successful projects in Africa. The school founder, Gemma Sisia, is talented and committed. She has made this her life work.

    3. The School is part of a large vision for a network of free schools for bright kids from poor homes across East Africa. A tertiary scholarship fund and teacher training colleges will ensure that every child is well-educated from kindergarten through to university/college. This will give Tanzania hundreds of trained professionals who will become the future leaders of the country.

    This project is effective at the personal level of individual lives, and also at the national and regional level. It relies entirely on private donations.

    So, I am certain that my assistance is going where it can have maximum impact. Effectiveness is sexy and powerful!!

    My blog supports the school…

  • Marianne Genetti on July 31, 2007 at 5:16 pm said:

    Do you know someone who is sick and goes from doctor to doctor because none can identify their illness? “In Need Of Diagnosis, Inc.” (INOD) is a newly created non-profit that will make a difference for those who’s illnesses have defied diagnosis. Some relatively minor tweaks to the medical system can make a big difference for diagnosing illnesses more accurately and quickly. Please go to INOD’s web site to read of their plans.

  • tom belford on July 31, 2007 at 11:39 pm said:

    The nonprofit I most impressed with is The Ashoka Society.

    Through a very demanding local identification process, Ashoka finds charismatic social entrepreneurs in developing countries and gives them the initial financial resources & coaching they need to grow and mature their social change ideas. The individuals can be working in virtually any field … poverty alleviation, health care, education, domestic violence, human rights, environment. But in all cases, the magic comes from finding an individual — an Ashoka Fellow — with both a compelling and scalable idea, and the personal qualities needed to bring that idea to fruition. For about 25 years now, starting in India and spreading to dozens of countries, Ashoka Fellows have accomplished amazing, systemic and durable results.

    I like Ashoka’s breadth of human concern, its focus on the neediest on the planet, its “betting” on the chemistry of person and idea, its enormous leveraging power, and its proven track record in country after country.

    I hugely value the choices that I and my family enjoy as to how to live our lives. Consequently I am especially troubled to see most people on the planet struggling in desperate survival mode, with no choices and little to hope for. Against the enormity of that bleak reality, I see Ashoka Fellows achieving systemic changes that improve people’s lives now.

  • Nonprofiteer on August 1, 2007 at 9:43 am said:

    I can answer this question with relative clarity and ease thanks to something Holden told me some months ago: organize giving around a purpose of one’s own rather than a cause of someone else’s. My purpose is to secure, expand and increase access to reproductive freedom for women. That’s not a euphemism for “abortion,” though abortion rights are essential and the self-regarding contrarian parts of me love supporting something others disdain. Reproductive freedom includes access to birth control for any women who want it (which turns out to be virtually all women worldwide: notwithstanding the old saw, the best birth control is not economic development–it’s birth control); pre- and post-natal care as well as appropriate care during labor and delivery (including treatment of fistula, a consequence of early childbirth and unattended labor that destroys the productive lives of its victims and is fixable with a relatively simple operation); protection against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases; and reduction (if not elimination) of violence against women particularly in the form of sexual assault. In supporting this goal I’m swimming against the tide of fundamentalism; so much the better. How people who deprive women of access to the things they need to keep themselves and their children alive (including the ability not to have children they can’t afford) can call themselves pro-life is one of the eternal mysteries of rhetoric.

    So I give money to the Chicago Abortion Fund, which provides funds to women who need but can’t afford abortions thanks to Henry Hyde’s disgraceful prohibition of the use of Medicaid funds for this purpose, and I give money to the UN Population Fund because my fundamentalist government refuses to support it.

    My other personal goal is to enlarge appreciation of dance and theater, my two artistic passions; so I support one theater and one dance company in Chicago every year. I do that anonymously because I’m a theater and dance critic and can’t be seen as compromised by support of any one entity.

  • My submission: Why I’m here.

  • Katya on August 3, 2007 at 2:42 pm said:

    Thanks for hosting. I blogged it!

  • Mark Petersen on August 6, 2007 at 10:45 pm said:


    Thanks for hosting this, and for emailing me – urging me – to write. I’ve done so here:

    I haven’t been following the Giving Carnival closely so trust this is what you are looking for.


Comments are closed.