Sunday, December 17, 2006

We can do this, no problem

"Carefully planned and intelligently directed philanthropy may be the best answer to the claim that aid doesn't work."

In an excellent article in this week's NY Times Magazine, Peter Singer considers the moral case for philanthropy. He discusses whether donors give away money out of a sense of duty or because it makes them feel good.

He concludes that people give away money for both reasons. His punchline is that, in the end, the motivation is not as important as the incredible potential for leveraging philanthropy to solve poverty.

A UN commission has estimated we need to spend an additional $50-75 billion per year to meet the Millennium Development Goals - which would mean the end of most poverty worldwide.

Singer calculates that Americans alone could provide over $800 billion per year in philanthropic funding without substantially reducing their standard of living. This is ten times the amount needed, and it does not even take into account the money available from philanthropy in other countries.

The availability of money is not the problem. The system by which the money flows to high impact projects is the current binding constraint. If we create a system that allows donors all over the world to connect directly with useful projects that resonates with their personal interests and values, we can harness this $800+ billion and substantially wipe out global poverty within a generation.

That would be a legacy worth leaving.