Effective giving is the branch of effective altruism focused on charitable donations.

The main purpose of effective giving is to support a charity that can achieve an especially large amount of good with that support. However, effective giving on a sufficient scale can also influence the charitable sector, giving charities an incentive to improve their own effectiveness.

There are a variety of issues related to effective giving.

Some of these issues relate to how to ensure that the donation has the largest direct impact possible. For instance, donors often tend to give to multiple organizations, but there are reasons to think that it may be more effective not to diversify donations in this way. Relatedly, donors have choices about when to give their money. For instance, they could decide to save money, and give it away later, rather than giving now. There continues to be debate about which of these options is more effective in general. Third, one person’s donations may impact the effectiveness of another person’s donations, raising the tricky question of how they should coordinate to collectively maximize their impact.

Other issues focus more on the indirect impact of donations, in particular the impact on others who are considering whether and where to donate. One way to increase your positive impact on others’ donations is to give publicly.

Finally, one way of improving the effectiveness of donations is to try to identify the features shared by past cost-effective donations. For this reason, studying the history of philanthropy may be a source of lessons that could improve how donors fund projects.

Further reading

Birkwood, Susannah (2016) Effective altruism: Will donors change their ways?, Third Sector, February 25.
A look at effective altruism and the effectiveness of charities

constraints on effective altruism | diminishing returns | philanthropic coordination | philanthropic diversification | room for more funding