Can Effective Altruism really change the world?

The revolution in charitable giving is not without its blind spots

Mother Teresa.
(Image credit: (Bettmann/CORBIS))

A relatively recent movement called Effective Altruism has been shaking up philanthropy. The premise is simple: People are concerned how much good the money they allocate toward charity is actually doing. Usually the metric people like to look at is the amount of money a charity spends on overhead, but this is a very gross metric. Yes, a charity that spends almost all its money on overhead is almost certainly criminally ineffective, but for two given charities that spend the same amount on overhead, one may do a lot more good than the other.

Effective Altruism instead looks not only at what percentage of a donation gets to the ground, but what it actually does when it gets there. Organizations like GiveWell look at a host of metrics to determine which charities save the most lives for a given amount of money, and rank them accordingly.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.

SUBSCRIBE & SAVE
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/jacafc5zvs1692883516.jpg

Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us