How big should our giving be?

" If you and other people from the richest countries who are doing well all donated, let’s say 5 percent of your income to fight global poverty, it would probably not diminish your fortune.  Maybe you would have to make small adjustments to your spending, but you would probably find out that it did not make the quality of your life any worse. Maybe, you would even become happier because joining the common effort to help the poorest people in the world would give your life a greater meaning and fulfillment.” 

Peter Singer
one of the most influential living philosophers

Sometimes we are approached by people who want to help the poor through Way out, but they are not sure what amount would be appropriate. You might be surprised, but this question is of interest to many donors who are serious about their generosity. Let us take a closer look at this topic.

According to Richard Millar, the contemporary philosopher dealing with global justice, we should donate so much that if we gave more, it would make our lives considerably worse. Brad Hooker goes further and says we have a moral duty to help people in greater need, even if it meant a more serious personal sacrifice to us. For Garrett Cullity, another moral philosopher, even this is not enough. He refuses any luxury or buying stylish clothes if people on this planet are still living in extreme poverty. He says that one can almost always choose a cheaper alternative and share the difference.

Even the founder and promoter of effective altruism, Peter Singer, claims that if we buy drinks in a plastic bottle, and we have access to healthy water in a tap, we are better off than most people and we are able to help. To those who can manage it, he recommends giving 5% of the their income and he challenges the richer ones to donate even more. 

There are many practical applications of these challenges. Millionaire James Hong donates 10% of each of his incomes over $ 100,000. Chris Ellinger and his wife Anne have established a Bold Giver league which inspires us with stories of great people who spend more than 50% of their wealth on charitable purposes.

The issue of the size of donation is addressed by all the major religions. In the Christian tradition, the "tithes" and helping the poor play an important part in the demonstration of one’s faith. Jesus told the rich man, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor." In the sermon on the last judgment, it says: "Whatever you have done to one of these my little brothers, you have done to me.” The early Christians in Jerusalem, according to the Book of Acts, sold all their possessions and divided them according to need. Jim Wallis, founder and editor of the Christian Sojourners magazine, calculated that the Bible contains more than three thousand references to alleviating poverty. The call to dedicate 10 percent of income to charity (the so-called "tzedakah") was already imposed by the Jews in Talmud. Islam also requires Muslims to give the so-called "zakat”, 2.5 percent of total assets every year, not only income. 

In the Way Out, we believe that whatever amount you give, you should give it with joy and a sense of purpose.