The Living Thing / Notebooks :

Who I donate to

Expensive value signalling

Usefulness: 🔧
Novelty: 💡
Uncertainty: 🤪 🤪
Incompleteness: 🚧

Some things I care about are best outsourced. I mention these here because

  1. I believe in normalising donations as part of a healthy society. (This is a contingent stance; many of the causes I donate to have the goal of reducing the need for charitable donation, which is in many cases more sustainable in the long run than only funding what attracts affluent guilt.)
  2. I hope that by highlighting the causes I donate to I will encourage others to donate to them.
  3. For my own reference, I want a centralised list of who I am donating to so that I can stop my donations if I decide the recipient is no longer aligned with my values.
  4. Maybe if donating to saving the planet becomes the new conspicious consumption, then not only will I look fancy, I’ll even have a planet to look fancy on.

Listing these organisations here should obviously not be taken as my personal endorsement of any individual tactical decision made by any of them, nor my blanket support of all positions they may adopt, simply my conditional belief that funding these particular groups is a high leverage way to help us all on balance (me included :crossed_fingers:).

On donating to politics

🚧 here is a brief screed on donating to politics that I wrote for my colleagues at UNSW, posted here for reference and eventual recycling into something more generally applicable.

At the meeting today I was espousing this essay about US politics: Too much Dark Money in Almonds.

The main point of this essay is that even in their system, which has much more dark money than ours, it is very cheap to buy an election, and industry decisions worth billions are decided by a million bucks here and there. Indeed, as we saw in Australia, Clive Palmer exercised massive influence in the last election by spending $60 million, or about $4 per voter. What a bargain! Or, to turn that around, we can exert as much influence as Clive Palmer comparatively cheaply. If we could persuade 5% of Australian voters that they should donate $1000 towards their favourite NGO or political party each year, we could absolutely be setting the agenda. Whilst giving money to causes does not bring the same satisfaction as turning up in person to a protest, it is possibly the most urgent thing we can do. $1000 is not much money for those among us on proper wages, or indeed anyone used to Sydney rental prices. If you hold off on replacing that laptop for an extra 6 months it has paid for itself. And other amounts are OK too 😉.

I would go further and say that donating to political movements is likely to be lot more important than certain ethical consumption choices typically are, at least expensive ones. For ethical consumption choices where we pay more for a less polluting product it is typically (I assume) because we hope there will be a force multiplier to that choice by demonstrating a demand for the more planet-compatible product, not because we hope a biodegradable toothbrush will save the earth; I suspect that typically a bigger force multiplier would be funding determined lobbyists to lobby hard for a consistent and strong industry policy to make the non-polluting option affordable and profitable for everyone rather than making it a private choice for people with the time and spare income to make these choices.

I currently volunteer for Getup, so I tend to think of them when donating. However there are many options: the Australian Conservation Foundation, Solar Citizens, Seed (an Indigenous climate action group), or your favourite political party such as Labor or the Greens would also be very reasonable recipient. (If you donate to a party make sure to tell them you are donating because of climate, and maybe even join properly so you can put the pressure on in branch meetings!)

For most of these organisations you can sign on to volunteer as well, which is also great. Do both. Volunteer and donate. No amount of volunteering will make $60 million of Facebook ads appear. For that, we need cold hard cash.