Yesterday I saw someone with a purple t-shirt that said “Pancreatic Cancer Research” and I was thinking about why he was wearing it. I know two people who have died of Pancreatic Cancer, and I guess the wearer of the t-shirt had also been touched by it personally in some way. And of course I hope his donation makes a difference and that progress can be made against this deadly disease.
But is this a good way to choose a charity to support? The one that you, by random chance, have had some contact with?
Business investments are (or should be) chosen by probability of payback. Either things that are likely to work, or things that will have a high payback if they work. Ideally both.
This can be applied to charities as well:
Bill Gates has identified that Malaria is the biggest killer in the world, and that simple measures like mosquito nets can make a big difference, so he has targeted that. He has saved 50 million lives and increased the average life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa by 12 years!
Big difference to a small niche:
ex-President Jimmy Carter decided to make a big difference to one small thing (an incredibly horrible small thing) and he set out to permanently eradicate Guinea Worm.
Guinea worm disease could become the second human disease in history, after smallpox, to be eradicated. It would be the first parasitic disease to be eradicated and the first disease to be eradicated without the use of a vaccine or medicine.
When The Carter Center began leading the international campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease in 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases in at least 21 countries in Africa and Asia. Today, that number has been reduced by more than 99.99 percent. So far in 2023 there have been just two cases, in the world. WOW! WOW!!!
Carter picked his fight, one that we could win, and he did it.
So: probability of succeeding x size of victory – that’s the key with charities, and maybe with anything in life – pick your battles!