Hide table of contents

Earlier this year I got an email telling me that I could receive (if I wished) a GWWC pledge pin after completing the first year of being a pledger. So I sent off a form, and after waiting a little while longer, a small package arrived at my door with the pin inside. 

I wanted to write this post about that year much closer to the time I received it, but as always real life got in the way! But that extra time got me thinking more about what goes into the pin, and I think the resulting post is better.


The pin is actually a little bit larger than other charitable pins.[1]

It’s metal, mostly black with some gold colour that accents the edges of the pin and highlights the GWWC logo in the middle. It's a nice, minimal, slick design.

And… that’s kind of it from this perspective. Literally, that's what's in a GWWC pin. But reductionist physicalism is like, so false, and it can’t give us good explanations of the world. The atoms that make up the pin, and the laws that governed their movement there matter much less than why the pin came to be in my possession, and what that means. 


To qualify for a pledge pin, you have to:[2]

  • Have been a GWWC Pledger for more than 1 year
  • Be at 100% or more of the amount that you pledged to give (dated from when your Pledge began)

In practice, you qualify if you donate 10% of your income for a year. In my case, I donated 10% of my pre-tax income, but GWWC also counts gift-aid so technically I donated 125% of my pledged amount,[3] but I don't really think of that when I make my donations.

In practice, I found it was fairly easy for me to live as I was used to without making major changes while taking the pledge, but I am likely to find it easier than others given that I have no dependents, and am generally have a fairly prudent disposition towards personal spending. The major thing was probably lower savings, but even here I think I've done ok, though counterfactually less well off than I would have been otherwise from a purely monetary perspective.

This is definitely something to bear in mind, and the commitments of the pledge aren't necessarily for everyone at all points of life. Furthermore, the 10% donation point is probably about where I've made all of the 'easy' trade-offs[4] regarding personal spending and lifestyle, and in practice I had sent up a recurring donation so it acted more like 'income forgone' than 'having to give away my hard-earned money', at least from pyschologically. If I were to start giving even more, I expect having to make more significant concessions and compromises, and I'm not sure I feel in a position to do that yet.

But again, this still a purely behavioural explanation. I gave 10% of my income, filled out a form, and got sent a pin. We can still do better about finding out what's in the pin.


An even better explanation might be where I decided to donate my 10%. So, thanks to the nifty new dashboard feature on the GWWC website, here’s the % breakdown of my donations since the beginnings of my pledge:

As you can see, there’s definitely a spread of donations between causes and charities. I am a believer in moral pluralism and worldview diversification, and eschew EV-maxxing perspectives on my donations.[5] I feel unsure about what it means to do good or how to act under this uncertainty. I very much nodded along to the perspective Dustin shared in this article, but of course from many orders of magnitude less wealth with which to donate!

This doesn't reflect any modal donation though. Instead, I mostly donate through a recurring donation that I split between the major cause areas, with Global Health & Development the top, followed by Animal Welfare, with Longtermism being the smallest amount. (For my recurring donation in 2024, Animal Welfare has become a larger - though not the largest - part of this allocation due to arguments such as these)

On top of this, and some smaller donations, I made large 'one-off' donations twice in 2023:

  1. I made a sizeable donation to the EA Forum Donation Election - you can see where that money ended up going to here
  2. During Giving Season, to make sure I hit 10% of direct donations for the year, I made my single largest donation of the year to Give Directly[6]

So now we have a better explanation about what’s in a pin: donations to various charities like these, that do their part to try and do some good in the world. Without these charities and the people who work there there I would never have been sent a pin at all. Still, I think we can even try for one more level.

Personally, and Morally

I have had a good life.[7] I was born at a lucky time in humanity’s history where we have unprecedented (though unequally distributed) abundance, in a nation with democratic and liberal institutions, and a stable upbringing to nurture my intellect and my ambitions. Not everyone has the chances that I had. Not everyone finds themselves with the ability to give in the way that I can.

While I don’t really see myself as doing earning-to-give, I do earn and I do give, and despite my love of debating esoteric topics on the Forum, this is probably the way that I do most good in the world, far more than I may have done otherwise.

Sure, in some sense I always wanted to 'do good' or to 'make a difference', but these thoughts didn't manifest in any significantly clear way looking back on my earlier years. It was only when I made contact with the ideas of Effective Altruism, and introspected about what the moral obligations it pointed toward might mean, their limits and their validity, that I think I actually started to do good effectively at all.[8]

The figures in the dashboard I showed earlier are not just numbers or percentages, they represent some real change in the world. Perhaps very small and easily missable change, just one more shoulder against the great Sisyphean rock that is the uncaring universe humanity found itself in, but it's my effort to push it nonetheless. 

That’s what ‘Giving What We Can’ means to me. Doing my small part, with what I can, because I know that I can, and I think I should. Now, at least, I think we've found what goes into a GWWC pin. Not just thinking that giving would be a moral or impactful thing to do, but actually reflecting on those values and following-through to act on them.

And I aim to keep continue to live by those values, and to keep giving, and with good judgement and a bit of luck I'll have done a small part to make this world better. 

And maybe in 9 years I can give you all an update with a White Pin instead.


  1. ^

    If you're also from the UK, it's much larger than the poppy pins they give for Remembrance Day donations.

  2. ^

    At least mostly, if you want can read the full criteria here

  3. ^

    At least, I was probably primarily causally responsible for that extra money being sent to the charities I donated to.

  4. ^

    I don't want to downplay that there were trade-offs here. I might just be weather the lows and not think it's much of a big deal in practice.

  5. ^

    I'd lightly encourage you to consider the same, even if it's only for reasons of epistemic uncertainty instead of belief in incommensurable ends. Though if you do have a different perspective and donation choices, that's fine too.

  6. ^

    I feel that the simple case for Give Directly is a lot more robust and scalable than other interventions, and I place a lot of moral weight on the autonomy of those receiving aid to improve their lives in the way the choose to.

  7. ^

    To be clear, I hope there’s a lot more of it to come!

  8. ^

    Though from a virtue ethics sense I think I do a lot of good from trying to act in the ways I think a moral person would, and by cultivating meaningful relationships in my life





More posts like this

Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

This is a lovely reflection, thank you for writing it! 

Executive summary: Receiving a Giving What We Can pledge pin represents a year of donating 10% of income to effective charities, reflecting the author's values and efforts to do good in the world.

Key points:

  1. The author qualified for a GWWC pledge pin by donating 10% of their pre-tax income for a year, which was fairly easy to do without major lifestyle changes.
  2. The author's donations were spread across various effective charities in global health, animal welfare, and longtermist causes, reflecting their belief in moral pluralism and worldview diversification.
  3. The author's ability to give stems from their fortunate circumstances in life, and their contact with Effective Altruism ideas led them to reflect on their moral obligations and act on their values.
  4. The donations represent real, albeit small, positive changes in the world, and the author aims to continue giving effectively to make the world better.



This comment was auto-generated by the EA Forum Team. Feel free to point out issues with this summary by replying to the comment, and contact us if you have feedback.

More from JWS
Curated and popular this week
Relevant opportunities