I heard a really interesting article on NPR the other day with the founder of the website Give Well. Its a company dedicated to provide information about effective charities.
A few tidbits from the interview:
1) Should I donate my time if I have no money to give? Not necessarily. Charities do recruit volunteers, but they don't do it for the reasons you might think. Volunteers tend to get excited by the cause and eventually will donate money and its the money more than the time that is the big benefit for the charity. This just hits the point home, that unskilled labor is just not that valuable. He did make the distinction between skilled and unskilled labor. For example, if you're a doctor skilled in surgery and you decide to donate your skill to provide this service for cleft pallette corrective surgery for kids in poor countries, definitely do it. There's a huge demand and need for that skill.
2) If you do want to give time, spend a more time finding effective charities. Too few of us when we donate don't really spend the time questioning charities on their effectiveness. Sometimes we look at their overhead, but that is the wrong metric. A charity can be much less effective because they don't spend enough on overhead.
Perusing the website quickly here's a great quote:
"In both politics and charity, we hear many proposed "solutions" for poverty and inequality. Most of these solutions have been tried. Very few have been tested. And of those that have been tested, many just don’t work."
Also, I have another education post to make, but a quick thought from a New Yorker educated related article I just read that hits on the same theme, that a difference in the performance of a good teacher and a bad teacher can mean a whole year of academic progress for a student.
In a study, a bad teacher will advance students a half a year in a year's time. A good teacher can advance a classroom a year and a half. Makes a ton of sense to replace those bad teachers with good teachers.
Similarly, it makes a ton of sense to dry up funding for low-performing charities and instead funnel our money to the most effective ones.