As you explore Peter Singer’s book, The Life You Can Save, you may want to consider how Peter’s ideas can actually impact your life and provide you with the opportunity to save and improve the lives of others in a cost-effective way. It is so hard to go from donating to charities that pull on you emotionally, or are meaningful to those close to you (i.e., family, friends, colleagues, people at your religious institution), to helping people in places that are far away where your giving does not necessarily provide you an immediate warm glow.
What I suggest is that you can change your charitable giving in steps. Borrowing the idea of “personal best” from athletes and counselors, is likely one great way to make changes. Athletes, particularly swimmers and runners, have recognized the importance of setting short-term “personal best” goals that are a “stretch,” but possible to achieve. Personal best goals help keep athletes motivated during their arduous training. Once they are met, they help build confidence going into the next training cycle and improve overall performance.
I have personally employed the personal best strategy successfully in three different areas — as a Director of an Anxiety and Stress Disorders teaching clinic helping clients reduce anxiety and stress in their lives; in a sales program I implemented with sales consultants at an international retailer where I was president; and at The Life You Can Save as co-founder and Executive Director. In all three arenas the steps were the same:
- Identify a specific, short-term goal that is a stretch but achievable.
- Specify what you will do to achieve the goal(e.g., training, research).
- Implement the change strategy.
- Congratulate yourself on your achievement.
- Set a new goal and repeat the process.
So how can this process be used to change one’s charitable giving?
- Decide you want to give to charities where your donation will provide the most “bang for your buck.”
- Spend time viewing the funds and individual charities on thelifeyoucansave.org/change.
- Pick a fund or the individual charities you want to donate to.
- Take a percentage of the money you donated last year and give it to the fund or charities you have chosen.
- Now consider giving more than you have given in the past. The suggested minimum pledges our organization recommends are based on annual income and we view them as quite manageable.
- If this minimum is more than you have given in the past, use “personal best” to begin to reach the minimum and, ultimately, perhaps surpass it.
Like all change the key here is to decide you actually want to make the change, and in this case, the change will support values you really care about — the value of all human lives. Reading Peter’s book or listening to the audiobook is a great place to start. Chapter one — “Girl in the Pond” is what got me started. In the audiobook, Kristen Bell narrates that chapter.
I hope the personal best strategy works for you! It has helped many others, including me, make satisfying; and sometimes even critical life changes.
Do Good. Feel Good.
Charlie Bresler is a former business executive and co-founder of the nonprofit The Life You Can Save, which promotes giving to highly impactful, cost-effective nonprofits that help reduce suffering, save lives, and empower individuals and communities among people living in extreme poverty (i.e., on less than $2.15 equivalent per day).