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"Maybe Christmas", he thought, "doesn't come from a store."

"Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!"

-The Grinch, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (p.29)


The Donate Your Christmas fundraiser is simple–instead of Christmas gifts, ask for donations to your preferred GiveWell-recommended charity. Of course, you can take it further than that if you’d like and ask colleagues or your social network.

You should Donate Your Christmas because by using the available resources with relatively small time commitments, it’s likely you’ll raise counterfactual funds for your preferred GiveWell recommended charity. In addition, it’s worth considering because it’s an opportunity to potentially spread ideas relating to effective altruism.

It’s likely to raise counterfactual funds for your preferred GiveWell recommended charity


First, I will outline why it’s likely you’ll raise money by briefly looking at seasonal trends, donor motivations, and results from other peer-to-peer campaigns, and then briefly state why it seems likely that part of the funds raised will be counterfactual.

Much evidence suggests people are more likely to give in December. For instance, one survey reported that 40% said they’re more likely to give during the holiday season than would be for the rest of the year. Network For Good’s Digital Giving Index also reports that 31% of annual giving occurred in December.

In addition, evidence on donor motivations indicates that peer-to-peer fundraisers may be successful. For instance, academic research suggests that social ties play a strong causal role in the decision to donate and increases average gift size as well. Complementary to this influence are the many people who give to those who ask. One survey recorded 20% of respondents saying that they simply donate to the charities that ask them.

Moreover, available data indicates that peer-to-peer fundraising pages regularly raise hundreds of dollars. One peer-to-peer fundraising platform reports that the average fundraising page raises $568 and this blog post reports Charity Water’s average peer-to-peer fundraiser totals at $770. These figures match well with Charity Science’s experience from last year’s Christmas Fundraiser which raised an average of $750 CAD per peer-to-peer fundraising page and a median amount of $319 CAD.

Unless your peer group and family regularly donate to GiveWell-recommended charities, it’s reasonable to suggest that a portion of the funds raised will be counterfactual.

There are relatively small time costs

The Christmas Fundraiser is easy to set up – visit our Christmas fundraisers page for the US, the UK, Canada or Australia on the donations platform CauseVox and then click “Create a Fundraising Page.” The next steps should be self-explanatory, and we’ve provided default text which you may adjust and pictures too so that the time costs involved are minimal.

When running your fundraiser, you can check out Peter Hurford’s guide to running a fundraiser for an overview of techniques that could lead to a successful fundraiser. Also know that we’ll provide email and Facebook status templates for you to save time in promoting your campaign. Here’s an example of one of the email templates:

Hi [Person A]!

How are things? How are your kids doing? Over here, things are going really well. I just came back from a trip to Chicago, which was surprisingly beautiful and very cold. It snowed! The buildings were gorgeous and ornate though. It felt like I’d come to a steampunk city. [Note: start with something personal]

So I know we never really exchange gifts at Christmas but I’m hoping you might be up for making an exception this year. The thing is, as I generally have way too much stuff already and I’d rather gift money go towards saving lives, so I’ve decided to run a birthday/Christmas fundraiser in lieu of gifts.

All of the money I raise is going to give kids in the developing world medicine. Here’s the charity it’s for (LINK). Just $1.25 pays for the pill which treats them for an entire year. My goal is to raise $1,000, so that will treat 800 kids for a year. Would you like to help me reach this goal and donate to my campaign? Even just $10 would help eight kids. [Note: saying even just a small bit helps makes it so people can donate just a little and feel OK about it. Makes them know that what they can contribute matters] To donate you can just go to this link (LINK) If not, no worries. :)

Thanks and Happy Holidays!

[Insert name]


And here’s an example of one of the Facebook status templates:


"Fair warning. This post is totally a plug, but it’s for awesome charities so I feel pretty okay about it. Also, I’m not asking for money. Just a bit of your time and some holiday spirit.


I want to give you a chance to help raise money for the best charities in the world. And by that I mean the ones that have been heavily scrutinized and give you the biggest bang for your buck. I’ll put some more information about those charities in the comments so you can check them out.


For those of you who are fed up with the materialism of Christmas (or just think you have some mega-generous, awesome family and friends), my pitch is that you ask for donations instead of (or in addition to) gifts this Christmas. Simply put, consider setting up an online fundraiser and put that multiplier effect to use. Check it out here: http://www.charityscience.com/christmas-fundraisers.html


If that’s not your cup of eggnog, remember you can still help me with my fundraiser. :)

It’s worth sending messages and posts like these because evidence suggests compared to fundraisers who don’t ask, those who do substantially increase donations. What’s more, a DonorDrive report described that around 15% of peer-to-peer donations came through Facebook (p.4). This report also described that more than 40% of those who donate return to a peer-to-peer fundraising page multiple times before they donate (p.14). This suggests you should consider politely asking peers more than once, however use discretion.

Charity Science will also send you a series of helpful emails so that a successful fundraiser can be completed at low personal time costs. The emails will include:

  • How to ask people for donations if you’re nervous

  • How to post/email more than once without sounding repetitive

  • Ideas for Facebook comments on your Facebook posts

If at any stage you would like help, advice, or support for your Christmas Fundraiser, contact us at team@charityscience.com for one-on-one support. Our goal is to make the process as simple and easy as possible.  

By partaking in the Christmas Fundraiser, there’s potential to spread ideas relating to effective altruism


Jeff Kauffman said talking about effective altruism with coworkers can be awkward and Eric Herboso has noted it can be hard for introverts to raise effective altruism in social contexts. Often something is required to initiate conversations and the Christmas Fundraiser may provide this opportunity. This could mean it leads to conversations relating to effective altruism that wouldn’t otherwise happen and these conversations may spread ideas relating to effective altruism.

This conclusion is supported by evidence suggesting individual giving behaviours are affected by social influences or that your actions may promote a reluctant altruism that leads to charitable giving. As previously mentioned, there’s also research suggesting social ties play a strong causal role in the decision to donate and increases the average gift size as well. In further support of this, Giving What We Can states that publicly committing to our convictions can inspire others to give and can make giving normal and expected.  

It could also be argued that by partaking in this Christmas Fundraiser you may be more likely to donate in the future. This seems to be partly supported by several GiveWell staff members mentioning the importance of giving becoming a habit. In addition, it could be argued that by completing this fundraiser, you may become a better advocate for effective altruism as your actions may better align with your beliefs and your communication skills might also improve as a result of the fundraising process.       

There’s also evidence suggesting that giving makes people happier. This may particularly apply for peer-to-peer fundraising because, as this blog post notes on this research, the “overarching conclusion is that donors feel happiest if they give to a charity via a friend, relative or social connection rather than simply making an anonymous donation to a worthy cause.”

Some core ideas of effective altruism include:

  • We have an incredible opportunity to do good by giving to charities

  • A great deal of happiness can come from giving

  • Some charities are much better than others

The potential to spread these ideas is quite valuable and by partaking in the Christmas Fundraiser there’s the potential to spread these ideas and others that relate to effective altruism.

Additional things to consider

  • When doing your Christmas shopping through Amazon, be sure to use Shop for Charity so that a 5% commision goes to SCI.

  • If you feel that participating in this fundraiser isn’t a good personal fit, then you may be interested in pledging a counterfactual Christmas match. Last year we had sufficient funds to counterfactually match all funds raised during Christmas Fundraisers. This year we have not acquired those funds, and as a result, it seems likely that we will not be able to offer everyone counterfactual matches for the funds they raise.

Some other donation options that you may be interested in include:

Signing up information

You can sign up for the Christmas Fundraiser through the following links:

If you don’t reside in one of those countries, you can sign up for the country whose unit currency is closest in value to your own, or consider making a page on the AMF’s site which has tax deductibility in more countries.

Fundraising pages made on AMF’s site also have lower fees because CauseVox, the fundraising platform hosting the Charity Science Christmas Fundraiser, charges a 4.25% fee on donations. There are also possible fees common to both pages of approximately 2.1% when donating via PayPal. Due to these relatively large fees we encourage those participating in the Charity Science Christmas Fundraiser to tell parties interested in donating substantial amounts to donate directly to the relevant charity to maximize the impact of their gift.    

People may prefer using Charity Science’s pathway over AMF’s because our third-party fundraising page is more visually appealing, easier to edit, and allows fundraising for GiveWell recommended charities other than AMF.  However, we are unsure how this compares to lower fees and think reasonable people could disagree about the best platform to use.

Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 3:17 AM

Great post Kieran! Any additional tips for people who ask for charitable donations several times throughout the year?

Great post Kieran!

Thanks Michael :)

Any additional tips for people who ask for charitable donations several times throughout the year?

To avoid donor fatigue and possibly damaging relationships whilst still optimizing for donations:

  • Limit the number of asks you do per year to only those with the highest expected value.

  • Ensure that you have many interactions with individuals that don’t involve an ask for each interaction you have that does involve an ask.

  • Try to discuss effective charity in contexts where it’s clear you’re not asking for a particular donation to a fundraiser, but just happy to answer any questions they might have, and help them choose the charity they want to support.

  • Try to personalize asks as much as possible and ask in a non-confrontational manner.

  • Try not to sound repetitive.

  • Personally thank everyone who donates and do it relatively quickly after they donate.

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