Hello fellow lazy person!
So you want to do good, but never seem to do anything about it? Well don’t worry, I’ve put in all the work in to researching different programs and charities so that you don’t have to. I’ll be writing a series of posts that cover a wide spectrum of ways for you to help out that cost you little to no money or effort. I’m focusing specifically on things that are convenient, so you won’t see things like “volunteer at a food bank.” Not that there’s anything wrong with those, and if you’re an extroverted person who thrives in community and have the time to do it, great! But that is not what this series is about. Here it about things that are free, or things that require only small donations to make big impact, but most importantly require little to no effort. I’m pro poor & lazy here.
My education background is in Development Economics & Social Enterprise, and I just want to pass along some insights and break down some of the barriers that prohibit us to do good. So I’ll be reviewing a bunch of programs, where I will break down the kind of impact it aims to achieve, the impact your individual contribution can have, and then demonstrate how to use the service.
Today’s post will introduce why it’s hard to act, and then focus on the first batch of ways that you can help that don’t cost you anything.
Why you are lazy
Let me start off stating that I believe we all have the desire to do good and have a positive impact on others. Whenever an ad from the World Food Programme pops up, we have that moment where we wish we could do something to help end world hunger, or to generally help make the world a better place, but ultimately we fail to act. Why is that? Is this evidence that we are in fact selfish people that we can’t even donate $15 to cover a week’s worth of food for a child in a famine-stricken region? I don’t think so.
Let’s just counter that internal condemnation real quick: you are not a terrible person; the guilt you feel for not acting validates that you do want to do good, and even by reading this you are further proving to yourself that you are willing to seek out how to help.
So why then do we not act? I believe that even though we saw an ad that had a convenient donate button on it that we could have clicked, there are hidden obstacles that prohibit us to act. Once those obstacles have been cleared, our capacity to contribute may finally be realized. I believe that there are generally three main obstacles that prohibit us to act: Lack of resources (or lack of understanding our resources, that is), lack of knowledge, & lack of energy.
This is largest obstacle we have, we ourselves are on tight budgets, and have little to nothing left over to give. Even if we set aside some money to give, we have to grapple with the fact that what we have to give individually will never be enough to satisfy the world’s needs. We not only can’t solve all the problems, but our resources are so limited that it is hard to see that our contributions will have any positive impact at all. What you need to remember is that while you alone can’t solve it, you can be a building block to a sweeping change.
When Rachel Beckwith died in a car crash at age 9, she had an open campaign to raise money to build water wells in Ethiopia. As word spread about her campaign, the donations continued to pile in. By the time the campaign closed, 31,997 individuals donated a total of $1.25 million. Over 37,000 people in Ethiopia directly gained access to clean drinking water from this campaign. It took one girl to advocate for a cause, and on average each donor statistically provided access to clean water to at least one person (https://www.charitywater.org/rachels-gift/).
Lack of knowledge
Even if we understand that while our individual contribution isn’t enough, our cumulative effort as a community can solve societal issues, we still don’t know how to be a part of these initiatives or which ones are doing a good job. We hear about nonprofits who don’t use donor funds appropriately, and so we’re skeptical of where we should put our money that will actually contribute towards meaningful work. We don’t know what works or how to be a part of it.
Lack of energy
Sadly the final hurdle is that we just don’t have the mental and emotional energy to find these organizations that are doing good and to find ways to effectively contribute. It’s not that we’re terrible people, but we have our own problems and we’re struggling to stay afloat in our own lives, that we have very little left to give at the end of the day. We would like to volunteer at a food bank, or start a fundraiser, but we just simply don’t have the time or energy to do all of that. In short, we’re lazy.
Easy solutions to big problems
Despite all these obstacles, there is still a way through it. In this series, I will attack each of these three obstacles: the first obstacle will be cleared in that all of these are either going to be free to you, or at least super cheap, meanwhile still providing a measurable impact. Since this is a series about being lazy, the third obstacle will be cleared in that they are easy to use and I will even break down how to use it. The second obstacle will be covered in that I’m providing you with all the information and guiding you through it all.
The rest of this post will focus specifically on some of the options that do not cost you anything extra in order to contribute.
Amazon Smile: https://smile.amazon.com
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just do your normal online shopping and the vender donated a percentage of the sale to your favorite charity automatically? Well the largest online vender does that very thing. This isn’t an added charge to your expense, like the $1 donation at the grocery store, but rather Amazon steps in through its own Amazon Smile Foundation and donates 0.5% of your purchase total to your designated charity like a cash back reward. To date, AmazonSmile has donated over $100 Million to charities (https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/amazonsmile-crosses-100-million-in-donations-to-charities/).
This isn’t a premium service or only for select promotional items. All you have to do is put in the “smile” before the Amazon URL: smile.amazon.com. It’ll bring you to the same site, but it’ll have a link at the top where you designate what charity you want to support and then you’re back the very same Amazon that you use to buy shovels and toilet paper from–as if there wasn’t a store downtown that you could walk to and pick up yourself (I work at FedEx, I know you do this and yes, we do judge you).
Free Rice: https://beta.freerice.com/
Need to kill a couple of minutes of boredom? You can scroll through Instagram again, or how about practice your Spanish to feed people in South Sudan? With the site FreeRice.com, you can play a series of simple quiz games including Spanish vocabulary, world geography, famous paintings, and human anatomy. For every question you get right, the site will donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme. They’re able to do this by running ads on the site, and the longer you remain on the site, the more ad revenue it generates, which it in turn donates the proceeds to provide free meals. You get to distract yourself from your current existential crisis by trying to remember if Pescado means Rabbit or Fish, while you’re also donating food one click at a time.
I’m sure you’re wondering: how much is 10 grains of rice? Well on average, a grain of long-grain rice is 1/64th of a gram (https://www.reference.com/food/much-single-grain-rice-weigh-c39a20469d3fe660), and one serving of brown rice is 62 grams of uncooked rice (http://calorielab.com/foods/rice/21). This means it takes 3,968 grains to make one serving. So on average, if you were literally giving 10 grains of rice, it would take 396 correct answers to provide a full serving of rice.
This site has been up since 2007, and has reportedly produced over 95 billion rice grain donations. What is great about this site is that your clicks are truly generating revenue. There isn’t a donation that has already been given that these clicks then equate to, but every click adds to the bill that is sent to the advertiser, and 100% of that revenue is then passed to the WFP towards food projects.
What if you’re so lazy that you don’t want to do any work in order to do good? Thankfully, science will gladly take it!
Folding@Home is a Stanford-based project that connects idle computers together through the internet to create a virtual supercomputer. This lab is designed to construct a full rendering of how a protein folds in the human body. That’s as much as I’m going to pretend like I know what I’m talking about, basically, they are working to better understand how proteins function, but since there are many ways that proteins fold, it will take forever for a computer to simulate all the different folds. This is incredibly important information, since this insight will help better understand how Alzheimer’s & Huntington’s diseases develop, along with many cancer cells.
This program has been running since 2000, and to date it has already produced a lot of critical data and discoveries. Over 100 research papers have been published with cited material coming from the FAH supercomputer, many of which have been supplemental in designing various drugs coming onto the market (https://foldingathome.org/papers-results/).
All you have to do is download the FAH app onto your desktop computer, and keep the app open. The server will then send your computer small folders of projects it will be conducting calculations on and returning the results back to the lab. All this will be conducted automatically while your computer is idle. You can even add this as a Chrome Add-on.
Sorry I had to take up so much time with the theoretical part. That’s just setting the theme, and moving forward I will be primarily writing the services themselves or the underlying intervention that this service is trying to achieve.