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Our members all take the Pledge To Give. This is a serious commitment and it is important to think carefully before taking it. Here are some things to think about, if you have any questions and can’t find the answer here please
The Pledge to Give
I recognise that I can use part of my income to do a significant amount of good in the developing world. Since I can live well enough on a smaller income, I pledge that from today until the day I retire, I shall give at least ten percent of what I earn to whichever organizations can most effectively use it to help people in developing countries. I make this pledge freely, openly, and without regret.
- Why 10%?
- Which organisations are most effective?
- What do we mean by income?
- What about students and those not earning a wage?
- What about retirement?
We chose 10% because it strikes a good balance. On the one hand it is a significant proportion of one's income: it recognizes the importance of the problem and that we must be prepared to make some real sacrifice to prevent it. Yet it is also within reach of almost everyone in the developed world. Indeed, the idea of giving 10% to the poor has been with us since ancient times (when the givers were much poorer than we are today) and still exists in many religious circles in the form of tithing. It may seem impossible to give 10% of your income, but it rarely is. After all, there are a great many people who are living on substantially less than 90% of what we currently earn. See for yourself with our How Rich Are You calculator.
By making the pledge you commit to giving your donations to the charity or charities that you think can best use it to eliminate suffering in the developing world. Some charities aim to do this directly, through medical or food aid; some do so indirectly by fighting the root causes of poverty via education or local governance; some do so at an even higher level by lobbying for fairer trade or more foreign aid. You are free to support charities operating at any level, so long as you sincerely believe that the chosen charity offers the most effective way of eliminating the hardships of life in extreme poverty.
The difference in the amount of good that charities can achieve for a given donation is staggering: some medical interventions are known to be more than 1,000 times as efficient as others.
For more information including our recommendations on specific charities see here
By income, we mean your salary or wages, prior to income tax being deducted. Thus, if you earn $30,000 in a year before tax, you would be required to give at least $3,000. Depending on your country and choice of charity, you may well get a form of tax deduction for your giving. Thus, the real cost of giving 10% may be less than it first appears. This is fine. What counts is that the charity receives an amount equal to 10% of your income. Of course you are more than welcome to instead make a correspondingly larger donation so that you end up paying the full 10% out of your own pocket and the government's assistance effectively goes to the charity. You can even commit to giving a higher proportion should you wish to donate even more to the charities we recommend. 10 is just the baseline.
The pledge involves donating 10% of one's income, and we have defined income as salary or wages. In this sense, many students, unemployed people, and full-time parents will have little or no income. They will instead be largely supported by money from other family members or the government or a student loan. What does the pledge require in this case?
As written, it does not require one to donate any of this additional funding, just 10% of one's salary or wages (which may well be nothing) and of course a commitment to continue to give 10% in the future. However, we feel that it makes more sense to have all of our members giving at least a small amount, even if they are not strictly earning an income. We therefore require them to donate at least 1% of their spending money. That is, 1% of the money that flows into their accounts for the purpose of spending on things such as food, rent, travel, children, or personal items, (but not counting spending on tuition fees). If a couple with shared finances both wish to join, then things are a bit simpler, as they can just donate 10% of their combined earnings.
The Pledge only commits people to give until they retire. This was done to allow members a bit more financial security in their later years, and thus to make it easier to give during their working lives. People who retire while members of Giving What We Can remain 'honorary' members and valued parts of our community, though they are no longer required to give.
While we did not anticipate that people might wish to join after they had already retired, a number of people have asked about this and we now have a way of allowing them to do so. People who have retired or partially retired (which we roughly define as having started to draw a pension) can join Giving What We Can and remain members for as long as they continue to donate at least 10% of their spending money (as defined in the section above).
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