The holidays are the giving season for charitable organizations, and if you are like us, your mailbox is overflowing with requests. We split up our charitable giving among causes that are close to us and ones that do good in the world at large.
One of the challenges we have is weighing the relative impact our dollars can have on causes that are distant and complex. There is no shortage of places that need help in the world, so where to focus?
A few years ago, the Danish government funded an effort to attempt to prioritize the goals within the United Nations 22 ‘core issue’ areas. They had a group of over 80 subject matter experts and economists – among them Nobel Laureates – under the name ‘Copenhagen Consensus’ to prioritize where $$$ can make the biggest difference in the world. They have done cost/benefit analyses of dozens of different targets on the UN’s development agenda:
Some of their findings are very interesting. Free trade across borders costs very little for countries to mutually adopt, but have enormous returns to raise people from poverty. Access to family planning, improving healthcare, expanding immunizations, and addressing malnutrition also pay huge returns. The impact of mnstrengthening energy efficiency, slowing climate change, and providing universal broadband coverage are relatively low.
The authors of the analysis are honest in acknowledging issues to which there aren’t good solutions. That doesn’t mean these aren’t worthwhile issues to solve, but that new ideas or science is needed before they should be prioritized above issues that have good, affordable solutions readily available. In their issue papers, they definitely ‘show their work’ in examining problems, costs, and effectiveness.
The last few years, we’ve used the Copenhagen Consensus rankings to help direct some of our holiday charitable giving to organizations that best address some of the world’s biggest issues. If you are facing the same questions, please give their website a look.
Have A Great Week!