Friday, May 27, 2011

Help Me Help People Help People Help People With Helping People

Giving What We Can is encouraging people to pledge 10% of their lifetime income to the most effective charities they can find. Two weeks ago, I signed and sent back their pledge form, and as soon as it's processed, I'll be on the list of people who have done so.

It was GWWC who turned me on to Deworm the World, the group to which I recently gave $8,000. (That amount would more than do it for this year.) GWWC doesn't actually take my money, though they do evaluate charities and make recommendations. I'm supposed to donate money to whatever charities I think will be the most effective and send them the receipts so they can make sure I'm fulfilling the pledge.

When I got the pledge, I emailed them to ask about whether political contributions could count. I laid out a strategy for using political donations to increase one's influence with good policymakers, and using the influence to support funding for highly effective humanitarian causes like deworming. They liked it! And they asked me to help them research how to donate money to political causes in way that has the most beneficial effects. I was eager to do that, and recently I've been talking with their staff about it. At present they've got a bunch of useful stuff to say about charities dealing with health issues (like Deworm the World). But their advice on political change is comparatively underdeveloped, and I'm hoping I can help with that.

If anybody has advice that could further my research, I'd be really appreciative. There's basically three different things I'm thinking of, though if something else occurs to you, comment or email me as you please.

First, if you know of political organizations that are focused on global poverty issues -- especially ones that accept contributions and could function as effective lobbying organizations -- do tell me about them! I'm thinking of something like the ONE campaign, but they don't take donations and they focus mainly on grassroots advocacy.

Second, if you know of any good quantitative research on the returns from money spent on political activity, that would be very useful too. The study which described how a bunch of corporations put $x into lobbying for tax changes that saved them $221x in taxes is the best thing I know of at this time. (That study suggested to me that one could get absolutely awesome leverage on global health problems through political donations. The sheer amount of human suffering we could prevent by using money in the political system is awesome. It's horrifying that those corporations managed to avoid $62 billion in taxes through lobbying, but if we could get that kind of leverage on curing parasitic worm infections, we would be as gods.) And I've got to get this paper soon. Definitely if there's something that deals with humanitarian lobbying specifically, that'd be great, but I don't know if there's really any of that going on or if anybody has studied it. The more rigorous and quantitative the research is, the better.

Third, if you know of something helpful about how donors can be most effective in influencing politicians to attend to their areas of interest, please tell me about that too. I don't know a lot about how that stuff works in practice. Even if I can't find any appropriate organizations to donate to, I'm hoping that I can put up some general advice on how to use money in politics to create the greatest good, and advice of this sort would be a big part of it.

Thanks in advance! I also reserve the right to thank you afterwards too if you give helpful suggestions.

(If you're confused by the title of this post, here's some help: Help Me Help (Giving What We Can) Help (donors) Help (charities) With Helping (those with parasitic worm infections, TB, malaria, etc). You could probably put in a couple more help-steps if you really wanted, but I thought that was enough.)
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