I’ve been thinking about the question of whether and how much to donate, compared to other uses of money (including saving for later). These thoughts prompted an earlier post where I tried separating the “how much” and “where” to donate questions. More recently, I wrote a post on levels of donation to clarify the different strategies I might follow as a donor depending on how much I donate.
One useful prompt for thinking about many questions is based on the anticipated regret framing. In this case, it would translate to: what kinds of donations tend to lead to regrets, and what kinds of regrets? I’m curious about the ways that people have regretted their past donations, and how such past regrets have informed their future donations. Please share your thoughts in the comments!
A few examples of the kinds of regrets that I can imagine possible:
You regret that your donation was either ineffective or actively harmful (because you reversed your mind either on the cause area or on the specific organization you donated to). See, for instance, Brian Tomasik:
I donated to several different organizations in the past, some of which I still support and some of which I now oppose.
In this post Holden Karnofsky doesn’t directly express regret, but his observations are the sort that might trigger regret in some people.
You’ve found much better donation opportunities since then, and you’re sad that you can’t direct as much money as you’d like to these better donation opportunities because you gave too much to what you now think of as an inferior donation opportunity.
The total money you donated left you with less money for personal use (such as dealing with a personal emergency, a great investment opportunity that would make you more money that you could donate, or a personal life change such as getting married and having kids).
The total money you donated left you with less money for pursuing altruistic ventures, such as starting your own nonprofit, taking up a job at a nonprofit that pays less, or helping other people start their own nonprofit or engage in an altruistic venture.