Pledging for effective altruism

I attended an administrative board meeting for a large local nonprofit organization this week. The report from the finance committee included a comment that our “giving” is up while “pledging” is trending down. People are giving money when they feel like it or when they have extra money.*

However, the finance committee wishes that more people would pledge their giving at the beginning of the year, so that the organization can plan ahead. They are trying to make an operating budget and want to make promises to the staff. It’s nerve-wracking to plunge into the year with no idea how the whims of thousands of people will affect the final revenue a year from now.

I don’t have any sources for this, outside of the representative’s report this week. They said that nonprofits all over the country are seeing a decline in pledges and an increase in (impulse) giving.

I am looped into niche online chatter about Effective Altruism. “You should give money for malaria instead of re-painting a lobby in America.” Fair enough. Most Americans don’t subscribe, and I’m not trying to make a case for the malaria pills right now.

What about giving to the same causes you already give to, in a new way? Make a pledge. If you lose your job or cannot pay, then there is no consequence. It’s not a legal contract. It’s just an indication of your intentions that helps leaders plan.

Millennials just recently outnumbered Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation. Trends in anything adults do are likely to be “generational shifts” for the next few years. I suggest to my fellow Millennials that your money can be spent more effectively by the nonprofit sector if you commit proactively instead of reacting to crises. See if the groups you give to allow for pledging.

Lastly, I’d like to brag about my group for pivoting this January to provide for new Afghan refugees in Birmingham. Having extra money on hand from record 2021 revenue helped make that possible.

… and finally, pledging could be a good topic for economists to look at.

*New papers on giving after windfall income bumps are here (published) and here (working).

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