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What does direct giving mean to you?

When I first started interning at GiveDirectly earlier this year, I was new to the whole idea of cash transfers. As I’ve explored the topic more on social media, I’ve come to realize there is a growing and very eclectic community of people who are passionate about direct giving for different reasons.

Here are some of my favorite ideas about aid and giving that I came across over the past couple of months.

  1. Direct giving is making people consider the impact per dollar spent on foreign assistance and on charitable giving more generally. There are of course many worthy causes out there, but it’s helpful to remember that 93% of donated money could go directly to someone in extreme poverty. An example is Matthew Yglesias’ shoutout to GiveDirectly in his Slate article “Please Stop Giving Donations to Rich Universities”:

    “At any rate, in the scheme of misguided donations to Harvard this one seems not-so-awful. It’s mostly for financial aid, which is nice. But really you would almost certainly do more good with this money by picking 1,500 people at random and mailing them each a check for $100,000. I will as usual tout GiveDirectly where your money goes to desperately poor rural Kenyans as a great use of your charitable dollar.”

  2. Direct giving is for everyone, regardless of how much you have to give. With even just the couple of bucks you spend on your daily latte, you could have a direct impact on someone’s life. Check out this poem that talks about how small contributions can add up quickly:

    There’s a little something I’ve been doing
    I’d like to rope you into.
    When people talk of saving
    they say it’s the little things
    like a Starbucks habit
    that hold you back.
    I’m a stress spender
    eater and coffee drinker
    And it’s especially silly when we have unlimited beverages at the office
    and non-professional reading to help unwind.
    So I baited myself
    promising savings below a set daily budget
    to my favourite charity
    [GiveDirectly, if you must know].
    Nibbles seem way less appealing
    against the utility of their price in rural Kenya.
    $12.91 in the first five days?
    I’ll take it
    [and give].
    Give it a shot?  

  3. Transparency is an incredibly powerful aspect of direct giving. We hope we are helping to promote more transparency not only in the administration of aid, but also in how nonprofits communicate with their supporters.

    A blog post by staff at The Mulago Foundation raised doubts about GiveDirectly’s impact. It inspired thoughtful responses by Chris Blattman, the GiveDirectly board, Holden Karnofsky of GiveWell, Jeremy Shapiro and Johannes Haushofer, who conducted the RCT on GiveDirectly and a second post by The Mulago Foundation. In addition, many people followed and participated in the discussion on social media. Here is one of the posts we got on Facebook:

Lastly, I’ve seen our donors not only adopt direct giving themselves, but become advocates for it. Our supporters are becoming our spokespeople and using social media to carry their message.

Of all the tweets and Facebook posts on GiveDirectly that I’ve seen, my personal favorite is Steve’s Youtube Video about his bike-across-America fundraising trip. I especially like how passionate he is about how cash transfers give real respect to the poor.

It’s been truly inspiring to see the community around GiveDirectly grow and, thanks to social media, find creative ways to express what direct giving means to them.