August 2017: A heartstring split

One of the fundamentals of effective altruism is that it is… effective. It is a rigorously unsentimental approach to charitable giving. Under the principles of effective altruism money is given to the ‘organisations that will do the most good with those resources, rather than those that tug the heartstrings’.

However, when your eleven-year old daughter is sitting at the dinner table advocating passionately – and at considerable length – that we donate our money to Care Australia because of the work they do to help the needy in Australia, it is – it turns out – impossible to say no.

Ensuring our kids are tuned in to the inequality in the world and the position of absolute privilege they have been lucky enough to be born into, is a nice side benefit of exploring effective altruism as a family.

So this month we split our donation: 50% has gone to Care Australia, not necessarily the most effective use of the money, however it still is enough to help four women to each start a small business. And, as my daughter said in her arguments for this use of the money: feed a man (or woman) a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for life.

Our other 50% went to Oxfam again, a proven effective organization. This month’s money will build three latrines for those without homes because of disaster or conflict.

Because we love to quantify our donation, we worked out that based on ten people being able to use the loo every hour (a fairly generous six minutes each) and if it was used 24 hours a day (a big assumption in hindsight), seven days a week, 52 weeks a year – well, that would all add up to a whopping 87,360 loo visits. And that’s just for one toilet. Multiplied by our three latrines and we’re looking at 262,080 trips to the toilet a year.

A clear case of not flushing our money down the loo.