There's an ongoing debate about whether it's better to give now or later. A quick summary:
Reasons to give now:
- You may get less altruistic as you age, so if you wait you may never actually donate.
- Estimates of the returns on investment may be over-optimistic.
- Giving to charities that can demonstrate their effectiveness provides an incentive for charities to get better at demonstrating that they're effective. We can't just wait for charities to improve — it takes donations to make that happen.
- Having an active culture of giving encourages other people to give, too.
- Better to eliminate problems as soon as possible. E.g. if we had eliminated smallpox in 1967 instead of 1977, many people would have been spared.
Reasons to give later:
- As time passes, we'll probably have better information about which interventions work best. Even in a few years, we may know a lot more than we do now and be able to give to better causes.
- Investing money may yield more money to eventually donate.
- When you're young, you should invest in developing yourself and your career, which will let you help more later.
- You can put donations in a donor-advised fund to ensure they will someday be given, even if you haven't yet figured out where you want them to go.
But it’s a topic that deserves more depth than that summary. Here's some of what's been written on the topic, in roughly chronological order:
- Patrick Brinich-Langlois: Delayed gratification? - Choosing when to donate
- Holden Karnofsky of GiveWell on encouraging charities to get better: Give now or give later?
- Giving What We Can with a summary of both sides: Donating vs. Investing
- Matt W. on striking while the iron is hot: The haste consideration
- Paul Christiano, Giving now vs. later
- Scott Alexander, on a discussion between Robin Hanson and Elie Hassenfeld: Investment and inefficient charity
- Robin Hanson on investing: More now means less later
- Paul Christiano on finding better giving opportunities: The best reason to give later
- Peter Hurford on encouraging others to join you in giving: Giving now currently seems to beat giving later
- Katja Grace, The value of time as a student
- Robin Hanson, Impatient idealism
- Benjamin Todd, Should you wait to make a difference?
- Owen Cotton-Barratt and Benjamin Todd, Should I help now or later?
- 80,000 Hours, Should you wait to make a difference?
- GiveWell on how they advised a foundation to spread out giving: Good Ventures and giving now vs. later
- Rob Wiblin, An underappreciated observation about giving now