The Power of the Dollar — Why Donations Matter

Kyle S.
4 min readOct 17, 2016

This story originally appeared on the Everyday Superhumans blog, and was published under the same name.

If the volunteer is backbone of the nonprofit, then money is the fuel that keeps it going. An engine is useless without the fuel to drive it. You probably already know that donations are good, and if you’re reading this you probably donate somewhat frequently too, so I’m not going to lecture on why you should donate, but instead I want to explore the benefits of a donation, especially to the right charities.

The benefits of a donation goes from a small investment into growing happiness, to allowing the nonprofit gain the things they need in order to operate, grow, and how you can make a difference without volunteering crowding up your schedule.

The Wolf of Charity Street

Imagine yourself as an investor on Wall Street, you have a bunch of money at your disposal to throw at any company in the world, and pray it grows. Now imagine you’re in a different universe where something is slightly off, Wall Street is dedicated not to investing money and watching it grow more money, but instead investing money and watching it grow into happiness. And you’re there, at the unofficial capital of happiness, and you have a simple mission: give your money to the right nonprofits that will have the highest returns on happiness.

Donations are little investments into solving a specific cause, but instead of receiving more money back you receive a higher sense of satisfaction knowing that your money is helping somebody out. Every time you donate, you’re buying stock in that nonprofit.

Like buying stock in our world’s Wall Street, you want to buy the best stock at the right price. In the book Doing Good Better, MacAskill provides the five best questions to ask yourself before making a donation.

  1. How many people benefit, and by how much?
  2. Is this the most effective thing you can do?
  3. Is this area neglected? [note]Really important. In the book MacAskill states that the areas in the most need are the ones that people don’t think of the most. See Deworming the World Initiative, icky name, has fantastic results![/note]
  4. What would happen otherwise?
  5. What are the chances of success, and how good with that success be?

I would like to include a bonus question MacAskill doesn’t ask, and that is “Do I believe in this charity’s cause?” If you are satisfied with the answers to those questions, then you should make the donation!

You don’t have to ask yourself that question for every charity that comes your way, instead you can just ask yourself question number six and look up the charity or cause of your choice on websites like Charity Navigator and Give Well. Both sites considers those questions and do the research for you, so instead you just need to find the charity that supports your cause the most and give to it instead.

The Dollar Bills to pay the Bills

Nonprofits, in a sense, are companies. They’re a group of people set out to acheive a certain goal, but in order to get there they need the right stuff. This part doesn’t need to be elaborated on, but I feel like it’s worth mentioning. Like when you buy an item from a store you allow the shopkeeper to purchase more and more items to add to it, pay the electricity bills and their employees, and eventually expand. Sine most nonprofits don’t sell directly to consumers, they need all the help they can get, so donations are really important for them to work towards their cause, uninterrupted.

What you get out of it

A donation, no matter the size, has the power to turn a crappy day into a wonderful day. We are social creatures, and giving back to others is a great way to fulfill that need we all have. Countless studies have shown that giving time, gifts, or money will make you happier. The nice thing about donating is that instead of donating time like with volunteering, you can have all the time you want and just spare a few bucks.

I see working on Everyday Superhumans as my way of donating my time to making the world a happier place, but I also cut a small portion of my paycheck to go directly to charity. Here’s a little life-hack I do: I usually wait until I’m having a crappy or uneventful day to donate, so that way I can go to bed knowing that I did something good that day.

We all want to be happy, and money can only buy so much for yourself, but if you invest the money into an organization that you believe in[note]and has a good record, so you know it’s being put to good use[/note], you will not only grow your own happiness, but also the happiness of hundreds, if not thousands more.

Thank you for reading! :)

-Kyle S.