Hey guys, I’ve always had strong feelings against conspicuous consumption, so me and a friend decided to try to subvert this trend by collaborating with designers and making an exclusive online shop where you can buy expensive limited-edition items, but where most money goes to charity. Before launching the shop though, I figured I’d ask for some feedback from the EA community. Do you guys have any thoughts? I know it’s a long shot to expect this to take off, but it’s a very low-risk gamble with all the free tools available today, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I’ve provided more details about how the shop would market itself in the following sections.
In the developed world, people buy Gucci, Prada, and Supreme clothes for hundreds of dollars every day. The production cost of these products is low, but people are willing to pay extra for the brand and exclusivity. While we finance the luxurious life of fashion magnates, it is estimated that millions of children die from poverty-related conditions every year in the developing world. We don’t think that’s fair. That’s why we started Compassio.
If you have a median annual income in the U.S. ($56,516.00), you’re one of the 1.1% richest people in the world. If you donated a mere 1% of your annual income, that would be only $565. If you buy any of our limited-edition items, with prices ranging from $100 to $50,000, your money goes to:
U$ 339 (60%) - Effective charities
U$ 226 (40%) - Making altruism trendy
The price of each item would correspond to a reasonable annual donation amount for a person in a certain income bracket. The prices would range from $100.00 (many items available) to $50,000.00 (very few items available). The products would include t-shirts, hoodies, caps, mugs, posters, etc.
What are these “effective charities” exactly?
Effective charities are basically non-profits that try to do as much good as possible with every dollar it manages to raise. While some charities focus on charismatic causes (e.g. Make-A-Wish Foundation), effective charities focus on efficiency, meaning most money goes to very underdeveloped countries where a few dollars can make a lot of difference. There are multiple charity evaluators who publish their own lists of charities. To simplify our lives, we give all our charity money to the Effective Altruism Funds, where a team of specialists evaluate charities and decide where to direct the money to maximize effectiveness. You can learn more about their methodology here.
Why not donate all the money to charity?
You can always do that, of course, but that is an isolated activity. By financing (and if you want, promoting) our shop, you’re contributing to creating a hype around altruistic giving, which may cause many others to buy our products as well, which means you’re potentially having a much greater positive impact in the lives of those in need.
Wouldn’t it be distasteful of me to show off how altruistic I am?
If you’re shy about giving, there’s no need to worry. Our designs are discreet and people will only know you were altruistic if you choose to tell them about how we work. Still, by purchasing our products instead of giving directly to charity, you help us invest in marketing and reach other people who are less shy and more open about their charity.
Isn’t it unethical to promote a culture of bragging about how altruistic you are?
Being enthusiastic is not the same as bragging. At Compassio we believe ethics is all about using the best information available to prevent avoidable suffering and promote well-being. Multiple studies have shown that being public about your altruism actually encourages others to also be altruistic, which helps us raise more funds to help those in need.
Isn’t it still better to share a fundraiser on social media for example, so that all money goes to charity?
Needless to say, we encourage any form of charity. However, promoting a fundraiser effectively involves work and skills that not everyone might have. When you buy our products, you let us take care of all that. Besides, by selling physical, wearable items, we believe we tap into some very core human instincts. Many of us feel the need to be expressive, to promote the causes that are important to us, or to approach altruism as a meaningful, quasi-spiritual activity. Many feel that these needs are not met by setting up automated donations and forgetting about them. Making rare but expensive purchases is a way to be mindful about altruism and what it represents to you.
So, would you buy from such a store? Would you support it? Do you have objections? Any feedback is welcome.