This holiday season we wanted to do something as a company to contribute to those less fortunate than us. A few members of our team previously worked at companies that organize canned food drives, but I’m not a big fan. While I think that any effort to help others is worthwhile, the data indicates that canned food drives are not particularly effective. If your goal is to feed the hungry, you can help 20 times as many people by giving cash to hunger relief organizations rather than using cash to buy cans of food.

Additionally, the idea of mandating a single, company-wide charity does not sit well with me. I laid out my process for choosing a charity in my previous post on charity metrics. Based on new data and research, GiveDirectly is now my top choice. However, other people might come to very different conclusions. I don’t think it’s either necessary or fair for our team to be restricted by my personal charitable preferences.

So, we tried take an approach that allowed for self direction, voluntary collective action, and data collection. First, we created a shared spreadsheet for the team to publicly suggest their favorite charities. The spreadsheet had fields for explaining each charity, why the charity is worthwhile, and third party research which supports their point of view. We then created a form for people to anonymously submit their donations to the charity of their choice. Donations could take the form of of money, time, or anything else.

Now that the charity drive is finished, I’ve collected and analyzed the data on our performance. I’m happy to say that we are a charitable bunch. We recorded 28 donations to 19 distinct charities. The grand total was:

  • $18,348.55
  • 102 hours of our time
  • 5 teddy bears

The top three charities, GiveDirectly, Charity: water, and the World Food Program, received over 85% of our financial contributions:

  1. GiveDirectly (42%) provides cash transfers to poor households in Uganda and Kenya. The cash transfers are often used to buy a roof for a home, pay medical bills, or start a business.
  2. Charity: water (27%) brings clean and safe drinking water to communities who do not have access to it in the developing world.
  3. The World Food Program (16%) alleviates hunger, and our donations were directed at helping the Philippines in the aftermath of the typhoon.

The majority of the balance of financial donations went toward charities that support healthcare, feeding the poor, and education.

Our top charity by time donated was the Spark Program. Spark provides apprenticeships to at-risk middle school students with the goal of decreasing high school dropout rates. We’ve participated in the program since it came to Philadelphia this past year, and so far we’ve mentored 8 students in our office for 10 weeks each. We had a great time teaching them about math, science, programing, and professional development.

If you’d like to support any of the causes supported by our team, you can see the full list below. We’re going to make this an annual tradition, and next year I expect to blow these numbers out of the water.

  • ACLU
  • Against Malaria Foundation
  • BackOnMyFeet
  • Broadway Cares
  • Charity: Water
  • Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
  • GiveDirectly
  • Glassboro Education Foundation
  • Jan-Ai Scholarship Fund
  • Mid Atlantic Springer Spaniel Rescue
  • Philabundance
  • Samaritan’s Purse
  • Sandy Relief
  • Spark Program
  • St. John the Evangelist Church
  • St. Jude Children’s Hospital
  • TechGirlz
  • WCU Bear Fair
  • World Food Program

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong /