My 2021 New Years Resolution

Nate Golden
Effective Giving
Published in
6 min readJan 15, 2021

My 2021 New Years Resolution is to get 3 people to join me in signing the Giving What We Can Pledge. Below I explain the what, when, why, who, and how of the pledge. So give it a read, and see if you’re ready to sign.

What — The Giving What We Can Pledge is a commitment to donate at least 10% of your post-tax income to effective charities for the rest of your life. Effective charities are organizations with a proven track record of increasing the world’s happiness at the highest rate per dollar. People that focus on giving their money to effective charities are called “effective altruists.” You can read more about effective altruism here.

Giving What We Can does not limit the charities that you give to, but they do request that “you give to the organizations which you sincerely believe to be among the most effective at improving the lives of others.” If you are unsure which charities are the most effective, you can check out GiveWell, and organization dedicated using evidence to find out. My personal favorite is GiveDirectly which simply transfers your money directly to the world’s poor.

When — You can take the pledge any time in your life, even if you are not earning income. If you’re in college then taking the pledge simply means that once you start earning you will give at least 10%. Giving What We Can recommends that if you are not earning income that you donate 1% of your spending money to start to build donation habits.

Why — Many of us are privileged by more than we could ever possibly understand. If you earn more than $20,000 per year you are in the global 10%, if you earn more than $38,000 per year you are in the global 5%, and if you earn more than $60,000 per year you are the 1%. When you live in America, these numbers can be hard to fathom, but they are true. Nearly all of the world is still poor by American standards. You can see your exact income percentile here.

And while we exist inside of our rich bubble there is immense suffering happening outside it. Here are just a few statistics that show the current state of the world.

Over 700 million people still live on less than $1.90 per day. While the world has made remarkable progress in terms of cutting global poverty rates, these statistics mean very little to the inexcusable amount of people who are still struggling to meet their basic needs.

Nearly 4% of children around the world will die before turning age 5. Most under-five deaths are caused by preventable diseases like diarrhea or malaria. Even children that survive these illnesses often face great obstacles. In Sub-Saharan Africa, one-third of all children will suffer from malnutrition, which affects both physical and cognitive abilities.

2.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water at home. Of this population, over 250 million must travel over 30 minutes to obtain water. Sanitation statistics are even more grim, as over half the world (4 billion people) does not have access to basic sanitation.

And the stat that still shocks my privilege, 80% of the world lives on less than $10 per day.

It is hard for me to empathize with people who do not believe we all have a moral responsibility in undoing these bleak statistics. But if you are skeptical I highly encourage you read Peter Singer’s 1997 essay The Drowning Child and the Expanding Circle. If you prefer video, watching his Ted Talk my freshman year of college quite literally changed my life.

The overall, “why” boils down to this….there are a lot of shitty things happening in the world to people that do not deserve them. Because of where you were born, you have the power to make things drastically better for people you do not know, and I believe we are all morally obligated to do so.

Why (Part 2) — Accepting and fully internalizing the suffering of the world can be difficult, and as your understanding deepens it can be taxing on your mental health. Every $4 ice cream cone can suddenly be filled with guilt as your mind drifts towards thinking about the good that money could have done for others. You can be overcome with sudden impulses to literally donate all the money you have and live as bare bones as possible. There is no clear stopping point of when you should stop donating. These facts have worn on me personally and invite you to read about my anxieties here.

So in many ways, the second “why” is out of necessity. Once you see the world this way you can never go back — so you feel as if you have to donate. The Giving What We Can pledge has put me more at ease by creating a target goal to hit each year.

Why (Part 3) — The final “why” however is a more optimistic one. I signed and completed the Pledge for the first time last year and it helped me feel completely whole. I never once felt void of purpose and when I checked my credit card and saw the monthly donations to GiveDirectly, an indescribable warmness would often come over me as I imagined the real tangible benefits my dollars were doing for real humans I would never meet. There are personal gains from giving.

Who — Anyone can sign the Pledge! There are currently over 5,000 members. You can check out the whole list here (control f to find my name!).

How — Just follow this link and start donating. If you’re nervous at all, reach out to me. I’d love to talk about it. *Check the bottom for an elaboration on “how.”

And here is one last “why.” If you sign up, I’ll order you this awesome Effective Altruism shirt.

You may be thinking, well, shouldn’t you take that $20 and instead donate it to an effective charity? Which is a good point. But if your shirt invites one conversation where one person donates more than $20 than it will have been worth it. You and your shirt can act as a walking advertisement for the movement. If enough of us are committed then we can build a world where every single person has their basic needs met and is free to pursue their own happiness.

Thank you for reading, let’s create a better world together.

P.S. I’m already ⅓ of the way there. My partner, Emily Yu took the pledge. But we don’t have to stop at 3, the more the merrier.

  • How elaboration — I remember after I signed the pledge I felt really anxious about such a large commitment. So the “how” do you actually do this can get a little complicated. Some people might worry about when they have kids or something or other life events. There is a long and short answer to those concerns but now I’ll stick to the short answer. Take each year one year at a time. The best way to do this is to set up reoccurring donations at the beginning of the year, then you basically never see the money and you don’t miss it. It’s similar advice that people give to saving. If your paycheck is about $3,000 a month, then just setup reoccurring monthly donations for $300, you probably won’t even notice its gone! I don’t really worry about the how anymore, and I promise you those worries do eventually go away.