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Be good for goodness’ sake this season

If you’re like me, the second after Thanksgiving ends a switch gets pulled. A switch that plays Christmas music even when you’re not actually listening to Christmas music. Sometimes you hear obscure songs like Gayla Peeve’s “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas,” or Bing Crosby’s rendition of “Good King Wenceslas,” but lately the songs in my head have been a bit more conventional. I say songs, plural, but I really mean song, singular, because I have had “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” stuck in my head for weeks. Normally that would be fine; everyone gets songs stuck in their head, but I only hear one line, “be good for goodness sake,” repeated over and over again ad nauseum. Despite my constant efforts to erase this song from my mind, I just keep thinking about it. The line has become my own little Christmas Koan. 

For now I’m not so concerned with being good for goodness’ sake, though proper motivation is a very serious concern, but what I would like to share is how to just be good. The short answer is doing good things. You might ask “what do those include?” Well, as a member of Effective Altruism (EA) I feel acutely qualified to answer the question. Our goal in EA is to help the most amount of people as best we can, so this holiday season I challenge you to not just be good but be exceedingly, effectively good. 

An excellent resource to help you do the most good as efficiently as possible is Give Well. Give Well is a nonprofit dedicated to making your donation dollars go further. Instead of throwing your money down the sketchy philanthropy well, Give Well’s recommended charities have been specially chosen.  All of them are the perfect combination of underfunded and effective to make your donations count. Some of the charities on their list include, the Malaria Consortium, Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative and Helen Keller International. Worthy organizations like those, as well as more, can be found on the Give Well website. By donating to your choice of Give Well approved charities, you can make a real difference.

If you want to understand the material impact of your donation, check out The Life You Can Save. Their website has a charity impact calculator that allows you to see just where your money is going. For example, a donation of just $37 USD can provide 18 bed nets to people living in malaria-affected areas protecting approximately 33 three- and four-year-old children from malaria, deworm 74  children or provide safe drinking water to 29 members of a community for a year. Imagine the cumulative effect of every student and their families at the College giving for the holidays. Even one person’s small donation to a Give Well recommended charity can do a lot of good for a lot of people because of their recommendation criteria. Any charity advertised by them is cost effective, has evidence of effectiveness and is transparent, making sure your donation gets to the people that need it and is never wasted.

Donating money is not the only way to do good, but it is an effective start to  making a positive impact on a world that desperately needs it.

Case Van Stolk, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at

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