Giving Games for Thanksgiving

Giving Games for Thanksgiving

In the United States we will soon be gathering for our Thanksgiving dinners.  We all have so much to be grateful for, but we also recognize that there is suffering and premature death that could be prevented throughout the world.

At The Life You Can Save we have been discussing how to approach the upcoming holidays and the “giving season”.  One of the ideas we have come up with, inspired by one of our pledgers in southern California, is a “Giving Game” at your Thanksgiving dinner; it could also work at any occasion you are gathering people together to celebrate or just to dine.


Thanksgiving 2013 by, CC BY-NC 2.0.

The idea is for one of the group members, likely the host, to put up some money that the group will collectively decide where to donate.  The person who puts up the money, or it could be someone else, would at some point during the dinner/celebration lead a discussion on how to divide up the money to donate.  We suggest that you print out our website’s “Best Charities” page and have it available for everyone.  The group could decide to give the donation to one or more of the charities.  Perhaps others will be moved to add to the pot to be donated.




The discussion points could include, but not be limited to:


    • How should we measure a charity’s “effectiveness”?
    • Can a charity spending lots of money on overhead be justified?
    • Why do group members favor one charity over another?
    • Why does The Life You Can Save not recommend charities that help people in the developed world?
    • Do people in the group generally experience themselves as happier and more fulfilled by “giving” or by “spending”?  (Has anyone read Happy Money?  This book discusses research that indicates ways we can use money to increase our personal happiness.)
    • Why do we, as a group, not do more to use our discretionary dollars to help the world’s 1.2 billion poorest people?
    • How would lowering our personal consumption be better for the world?  What would be the problems if we all lowered our personal consumption?
    • Do we, as individuals, believe we should do more to help alleviate suffering and premature death among the world’s 1.2 billion poorest people?  If so, what do we want to do in 2014 to improve upon our past performance and achieve our personal best in philanthropy (like athletes have “personal best” goals to improve their athletic performance)?  If not, why do we feel this way?

At the end of the Giving Game you can go on to the “Where to Donate” page of our website and make the donations to the appropriate charity(s).  Please also get in touch with us at to let us know how it went, particularly the kind of thoughts that people had and whether anyone else felt like contributing to the donation pot.  Thanks so much for considering this idea!

From all of us here at The Life You Can Save, we hope you have a great holiday season and achieve your personal best in effective philanthropy in 2014.

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About the author:

Charles Bresler

Co-founder, Board Member

After earning a PhD in Social and Clinical Psychology, Charlie Bresler became director of behavioral medicine for The California School of Professional Psychology, Fresno (CSPP-F), where he was a full-time professor and founder of a teaching clinic for anxiety & stress disorders. In 1993, he was recruited by The Men’s Wearhouse, where he went on to be head of human resources, stores, marketing, and, ultimately, president. He stepped down in 2008 to fulfill his long-standing desire to work directly on social and economic issues, not too long after he read Peter Singer’s book, The Life You Can Save. Catalyzed by the concept, Charlie reached out to Peter and proposed combining Peter’s theory with the formation of a nonprofit to advance Peter’s ideas and to raise money for high-impact, cost-effective organizations. Together, they founded The Life You Can Save, where Charlie took on all organizational operations as executive director until 2024. He was supported in this work and in his financial support for the organization by his wife Diana, a family physician, and executed the role pro bono.

The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.