Leave charities to the billionaires and donate to micro-causes
Freakonomics writer James Altucher has a really fascinating argument against donating to huge national and international charities.How to avoid charity scams
He says that Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and the other millionaires and billionaires of the world have the big causes covered — our dollars aren't going to make a difference for these charities. But, he goes on: Where our dollars do make a difference is in real people's lives, in our own communities. He calls these "micro-causes," and he says they can be found in the pages of our local newspapers everyday (assuming you live in a community where, you know, there still is a local newspaper).
Three ideas for micro-giving that Altucher shares:
• Paying for a chess champion to visit a survivor of abuse who is into chess
• Paying for a math tutor for a kid who was suspended for standing up to bullies
• Paying for a hotel room for a family who lost their house in a fire
He also emphasizes that it's extremely important to stay anonymous when donating to individuals, because of legal issues (don't get sued for being nice!), ego ("It’s like when Superman saves someone from being run over by a bus. He’s done. Now he just flies off to the next situation."), and risk (in case things go wrong).
Altucher's micro-causes seem to me to be a step above random acts of kindness. It's being nice, but being nice in a very specific way, and trying to fix a very specific need. It also seems a lot more satisfying than sending $20 a month to save the whales, though of course there is merit in that, too.
Have you ever made independent donations? Or know anyone who has? What do you think about his argument that the billionaires are going to take care of the big causes?