On this Giving Tuesday, a few endorsements regarding how to think about and approach your own philanthropy…
1) Don’t give to your alma mater (unless, perhaps, you went to a HBCU or a women’s college, as I did). The vast majority of colleges and universities in this country have enough money. Listen to this episode of Revisionist History if you don’t believe me.
2) Instead, give to direct service organizations in your local community (the people feeding, housing, healing, and educating your neighbors in need). Or give to black women-led organizations (here’s a list I compiled in 2017 that’s still great). Pay off your little sister’s school debt or buy your mom a massage or pay for a babysitter so your neighbor can go see a movie with subtitles in the actual theaters. Pay close enough attention that you actually identify the needs of those in your little corner of the earth and meet them when you can.
3) Above all, stay, as MLK put it, creatively maladjusted. There are things I really like about the effective altruism movement, for example; thinking in a deeply rational way about how to do the most good with your dollars is a noble, if not always emotionally-enlivening practice. On the other hand, I worry about the ways in which a scientific approach to giving can sometimes prevent us from using giving as a way of restoring out own humane instincts. When I was in my 20s, I co-founded this thing called the Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy. I gave 10 friends $100 and told them to meet me at a bar a month later and tell the story of how they gave it away. Hilarity ensued. Someone made a shit ton of lasagna and passed it out on the street. My mom threw $100 worth of coins on elementary school playgrounds. My friend Daniel paired strangers up in a bookstore and had them exchange their favorite books (his treat).
My biggest lesson of that whole experiment is that we have to not just think generously, but live generously—that means being awake to the world around you, listening to your own outrage about the state it’s in, and chipping away at the inhumanity with joy and kindness and creativity.
In other words, if you’d have a hard time explaining it away to a small child, then don’t explain it away to yourself. People shouldn’t be sleeping on the streets. Don’t. Get. Used. To. It.
Maladjusted and full of stuffing,
P.S. I’m hosting an amazing all-day conference on Thursday called End Well—all about how we can make cultural and systemic change to give all people the deaths they deserve. You can watch the livestream for free here if you’re interested. For free access, put this code in: EW191205.