Effective Altruism

Effective Altruism

It’s a new year and many of us are making the usual resolutions: eat healthier, drink less, be more organised, and so on. But how about entering a new year, a new term as an effective altruist?

What is effective altruism?

‘A philosophy and social movement which applies evidence and reason to determining the most effective ways to improve the world.’ (Wikipedia, n.d.)

Each of us buy things that we don’t really need. We buy fashion items, have lavish meals out, and even drink bottled water when the water we drink out of the tap is perfectly safe to drink. By not having 4 meals out which would come to around £70, and giving the money to a relevant charity you could pay for 150 months’ worth of education for children in poverty. Being an effective altruist is more than just using your heart and giving up some luxuries; it’s about using your head to find the most effective charity to donate to.

Consider this: It takes around £27,000 to train a single guide dog and its recipient. The same amount of money, £27,000, could be spent on curing between 400 and 2,000 people in developing countries, who have trachoma – bacterial infection which can cause blindness.

Some charities are hundreds or even thousands times more effective than others. It costs 50 pence to cure people in developing countries from a deadly disease called Schistosomiasis, so giving to a cause such as that would certainly be worth doing. That £3 coffee you just bought from Starbucks could cure 6 people!7309928384_86d0aa0535_b

We are all guilty of buying things we don’t actually need. Most of our lives seem to be spent on a treadmill; we work hard to get money, then spend it on consumer goods, then work to get more money and the cycle continues. You never get off the treadmill and are never completely satisfied. Being an effective altruist gives your life meaning and makes it fulfilling, many who have joined the movement report being a lot happier than they previously were!

If the richest 10% gave 10% of their yearly incomes to charity it would come to around 2.7 million million pounds. Less than 5% of the money received would be enough to: eliminate global poverty, eradicate all tropical diseases, give everyone secondary education, permanently save every rainforest in the world, make a start on fixing climate change, and even leave enough to launch several manned missions to Mars. It is incredible to think that all this could be achieved in one year if the richest sacrificed 10% of their massive incomes.


You can still help as students. Royal Holloway is lucky to have a brand new society rather appropriately named the ‘Effective Altruism’ society. They have recently focused on a tropical crisis, the refugee crisis. The Effective Altruism committee and its members teamed up with the society Teach First, and organized a bake sale. All proceeds went to Train of Hope, a charity which gives refugees arriving in Vienna medical help, legal advice, food, and clothes.

The Effective Altruism society chooses fundraising ideas which help the chosen cause. They also aim to educate both members and non-members during the fundraisers. An example being that they are hoping to host a film night with a guest speaker who has witnessed first-hand what it is like to work in a refugee camp. All proceeds will go directly to Train of Hope, if not a similar charity.

By joining the effective altruism society you will be giving effectively as they carefully select the charities they donate to, you will also make lots of new friends whilst fundraising. As previously stated it will make your life fulfilling. If you still don’t think you want to commit to being an effective altruist after reading this article, then please support this new society in whatever way you can and you will still be making a difference!


Barnes, B., 2015. The Centre for Effective Altruism. [Online video]
Available at: https://www.centreforeffectivealtruism.org/
[Accessed 02 01 2016].
Singer, P., n.d. The Centre for Effective Altruism. [Online video]
Available at: https://www.centreforeffectivealtruism.org/
[Accessed 02 01 2016].
Wikipedia, n.d. Effective altruism. [Online]
Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_altruism
[Accessed 02 01 2016].