Q:(on the ALS ask) Following that train of thought, aren't people going to give less to charity? I probably misunderstood, but it seemed that you were wondering the purpose of giving/promoting the ALS charity in lieu of another charity - and of course, it is sad that not all charities can receive the attention they deserve, but choosing X or Z instead of asking yourself why X or Z should be chosen is more efficient than not giving at all. Anytime a charity receives attention, I will be happy.
This is a really good point.
If a campaign like the Ice Bucket Challenge increases the overall amount that humans give to charity (and it has), then that is an unambiguous win, because then it isn’t a question of donating to x or donating to y; it’s a question of donating to x or not donating money to charity.
I was imagining charity as a zero-sum game, which of course it isn’t for most people. I’ll update the post to reflect your comment.
Q:Will you do the ALS ice bucket challenge?
Probably not, partly because I am still recovering from meningitis and so the thought of doing anything out of bed is a bit overwhelming, but also for other reasons. I worry this makes me a totally humorless party pooper, but…
ALS is a terrible disease and there isn’t enough research money devoted to it. Raising money for ALS research is important, and while some people complain that the whole ice bucket challenge thing is mere slacktivism, the ALS Association has raised millions of dollars it otherwise wouldn’t have raised. And that’s great. This has been an extremely successful campaign, and I think it’s wonderful.
That said, I have mixed feelings about tying fundraising (or awareness campaigns) to stuff like the ice bucket challenge. Here’s the question: Why are we raising money for ALS instead of raising money for pediatric cancer research or food aid or for domestic violence shelters?
I feel like the answer to that question ought to be, “We’re raising money for ALS because ALS research is underfunded and can benefit from these resources,” not, “We’re raising money for ALS because the ice bucket challenge is a thing on the Internet right now.” If our philanthropy is dictated only by what happens to bubble up to the surface of the Internet’s consciousness, we’re not making careful choices about how to distribute our limited resources.
And when it comes to charity, everyone has limited resources. Whether you give $5 or $5,000,000 a year to charities, there will always be good causes you cannot fund. So you need a very good answer to the question, “Why did you donate to X and Y?” because there will always be a Z—a very worthy Z—to which you did not donate.
This is not meant in any way to diss those who’ve participated in the ice bucket challenge: it’s an important cause and it has been tremendously successful. And I certainly don’t want to strip the joy of giving and sharing from charity. Sarah and I are just focused on trying to make sure our giving is driven by need and the opportunity to create lasting change.
EDIT: Tumblr user mockmewithgrace points out that it isn’t just a question of donating to X over Z; campaigns like the ice bucket challenge raise the total amount of money donated to charity; i.e., money that would otherwise be spent on beer instead gets donated to ALS research. This is a key point that I failed to consider above; I wrongly imagined charity as a kind of zero-sum game. And insofar as campaigns like this increase the total amount given to charity, they are I think unqualified successes.
Earlier today, I met with several students at Addis Ababa University to discuss the opportunities and challenges they face in their academic and professional lives.
One of the biggest challenges we have here on the Internet is hearing marginalized and underrepresented voices, especially those across the digital divide. You can’t amplify voices online that aren’t online.
While all of the young people I talked to used the Internet and most had regular access via a tablet, smartphone, or laptop, none had blogs or tumblrs or YouTube channels, and none had social network interactions with people outside their IRL social networks. I’m sure there are English-language tumblrs from Ethiopian students (although I haven’t been able to find any today), but almost all voices—even highly educated and privileged ones—from the world’s poorest countries go completely unheard online.
(And when we do hear them, it’s usually through an intermediary: videos edited by someone else, transcripts of interviews, etc. It’s not direct participation in the conversation by, for instance, posting to tumblr or reblogging HIMYM gifs. [The students I spoke to agreed that HIMYM is the best American show they have on TV, although a couple said that watching TV was a waste of time and a distraction from studying, to which I said HAVE YOU SEEN PHINEAS AND FERB BECAUSE IT IS TOTALLY EDUCATIONAL.])
Anyway, all of this is a long preamble to say: Earlier today I met with a 20-year-old law student who helped found an organization in Ethiopia devoted to empowering women and ending gender-based violence. (I’ll include her talking about her work in a video soon.)
The organization does fundraisers so the poorest women at the university can have access to contraception, and every year they have a Blood Drive for Mothers, where many students donate blood to combat maternal death. (Post-partum hemorrhaging is a too-common cause of death among Ethiopian women.)
We often think of global charity as people from rich countries giving money to people from poor countries. But the real story is much more complicated (and much more exciting!); we just don’t hear those stories often, because organizations like the one founded by the young woman I met don’t have YouTube videos or tumblrs.
Broncos or Seahawks? YOU DECIDE
I don’t really have that much of an interest in either of these American football teams, so I’m auctioning off my support through Firstgiving.
I will GIVE MY EVERYTHING for your team. I will say TERRIBLE THINGS about your opposition. I will praise your team’s every effort.
Plus, Save the Children is an amazing organization and your donations are tax deductible.
Q:JOHN JOHN IM GETTIN A CHRISTMAS CARD FROM WHEEZY I'M SO EXCITED also i had to explain to my mother that ye aren't all thieving corrupt people when i told her about p4a. THAT IS ALL IM SO ODJDOSJF (this isn't a question) (oops)
But on this topic:
Parents are right to be concerned about charitable initiatives on the Internet. But the Project for Awesome is not a scam. We’ve been doing this for six years. We’ve distributed money to organizations like Save the Children, kiva, Partners in Health, the Harry Potter Alliance, and many more.
100% of the proceeds from the Indiegogo campaign will be distributed to charities chosen during the Project for Awesome. The Foundation has no overhead—everyone who works on it, from the Board of Directors to the people who pack up calendars and mail them to you*—volunteer their time.
So donate, if you can afford to! The indiegogo is already over $25,000, and hopefully this will be the biggest and best p4a yet. And remember, EVERY DOLLAR donated up to $50,000 will be matched by our generous anonymous donors. Yay!
* Full disclosure: In many cases, the people mailing calendars and the Board of Directors are the same people.