This post is part of a series on common myths and misconceptions about charity. Taking time to learn the facts will help prevent the spread of misinformation and inspire more people to use their resources effectively to improve the world.
Can an individual donor really make a difference?
A persistent idea is that, if a problem is very large, one individual donor cannot make much of a difference. However, by using evidence and reason to ensure that their donations are effective, an individual donor absolutely can make a difference, even on large problems.
Not all charitable donations have the same impact. Donating to an ineffective charity might not make a big difference. However, when directed to a highly effective charity, even a small donation can have a surprisingly large impact.
For example, purchasing and distributing a single anti-malarial bed net costs around $4.95 USD and can protect two to three people for up to three years. If a donor gave $6,800 (10% of the U.S. median household income.) to the Against Malaria Foundation every year, they could fund the purchase and distribution of over 1,400 mosquito nets annually. This amounts to nearly 60,000 nets through their working life — which can avert over 60 deaths from malaria.
Giving What We Can recommends many charities that pursue similarly cost-effective solutions or research across cause areas. Our recommended charities pursue a range of work, including: providing vitamin A supplements in low-income countries, deworming children to prevent parasitic infections, promoting plant- and cell-based meat alternatives to reduce animal suffering, and researching existential threats to protect the future of humanity.
These organizations provide incredible results for problems that may seem intractable at first. If we all donated a meaningful percentage of our income to the most effective charities, together we could have an enormous positive impact in the world.
This post is part of an update of our "Myths about Charity" page. Multiple authors contributed.