The Buffett Family Teach Effective Philanthropy…But Only Score 5/10 Themselves (4)

The Buffett Family Teach Effective Philanthropy…But Only Score 5/10 Themselves (4)

This is the fourth post in a five-part series. To see the first post, click here.

Myth #4: Others can't know better than you about where you should give.

This is another common belief that I come across and it is often related to the idea of giving being a “deeply personal act”. Sometimes it takes the form of a mere assumption that people have never thought to question: “So if I want to give effectively then I need to do a lot of research.” Sometimes it takes the form of something stronger: “Other people have no right to tell me where to donate.” Either way, I think people are underestimating the value of relying on existing research into charity effectiveness carried out by, for example, GiveWell. That's not to say that ordinary members of the public should never do any research themselves. Indeed, I think it is important to watch the watchdogs to some extent and not just trust anyone's opinion on where you should donate, and if people have the time to investigate charities in more depth themselves then that's great. But we're all busy people and I want everyone to realize that giving effectively doesn't have to require a large time commitment from you – a lot of research has already been done.

Giving With Purpose isn't great at helping people to realize this, but they do link to GiveWell and other “tools” on their website and I'm not going to penalize them for offering the course in the first place because, as I said, if people have the time to do a lot of research themselves then they will probably be better givers by doing so. I am also hugely impressed by Warren Buffett's decision to outsource his charitable investing: While Buffett will serve as a director on the Gates Foundation, he said he prefers spending his time as a professional money manager at Berkshire Hathaway and leaving the details of investing his charitable contributions to others.

Buffetts, I think I'll let you have the full 2 marks here.

Keep an eye out for next week's post on the final myth in this five-part series…

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About the author:

Holly Morgan

Holly Morgan is a former Executive Director at The Life You Can Save and a former Director of Community at Giving What We Can; while a philosophy student in Oxford, she played a key role in getting both of these organizations and the wider Effective Altruism movement off of the ground.

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