Giving to others changes you, in ways that go well beyond the altruistic. Yes, altruism is valuable in a top-line moral sense. We all know that. But it also has subtle follow-on effects. It roots you firmly in the world, and links your priorities to the priories of the larger whole.
It’s also good for your well-being. Giving money or time brings better, long-term psychological effect than anything you can purchase. You feel better when you give. It makes you feel powerful and effective. It even lengthens your lifespan and lowers your blood pressure.
If you can’t give a lot, just give a little. My father always told me that the most important time to give others is when you feel poor. How you act when life is hardest is who you really are. If you can still be kind when you’re desperate, you are a kind person.
Today is giving Tuesday. The world is pretty much waving a flag at you that it’s time to give. Do it.
If you don’t know who you want to give to, I have a few suggestions.
Relief International’s Syria work. I can’t vouch for everything they do, but I led an evaluation of an RI project in Syria, and I was really impressed by the professionalism of their work and the impact they had.
GiveDirectly does exactly what they say they do – give cash to the very poor. I have no professional experience with them, but they are the darling of the evidence-based action people and I have been impressed by their reporting.
African Prisons Project works to give dignity and hope to prisoners. It has a truly amazing model, based on supporting law education in prisons. It’s easy to write off small projects with small target groups, but Nelson Mandela was a prisoner once.
Grandmother Project works with older women to improve live at the community level. A friend/former colleague is on the board, so I can’t vouch for it personally, but I trust my colleague’s judgement.
Finally, I am on the board of Oceanswell, a Sri Lankan NGO devoted to marine conservation. It’s easy to stop thinking about biowealth when the human world is falling apart around us, but oceans are key to our future as a species and as a planet. I am proud to be part of Oceanswell’s efforts to protect the oceans and lives they support.