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Graduation at CMC

Today, I made my senior gift. On behalf of Claremont McKenna College, I donated $35.46 (more on that number below) to the Against Malaria Foundation and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, two highly-effective charities working on preventing and treating disease in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This isn’t what the college tells us to do. Traditionally, the Development Office pushes seniors to make a “Senior Gift” before graduating and donate some amount of money—however small—to CMC. Apparently they find that if we donate now, we’ll be much more likely to keep donating in the future.

However, over the past few months I’ve sensed a lot of hesitation from members of our class about donating to the college. It’s not that we didn’t like our time here at CMC—many of us loved it, and I suspect all of us grew and learned in ways we never thought possible. But I hear a lot of people questioning whether their gifts will actually mean anything.

Unless we designate it to a specific line item such as financial aid, our donations simply go to supporting the general CMC budget. It’s not obvious what the college will do with another few dollars, if anything. Even if we choose to support financial aid, it would likely require a much bigger gift than we can make to increase the number of students CMC can offer financial aid to or the amount of money given out.

Thankfully, I don’t have to wonder whether my donation will make a difference. It will, and yours can too.

Instead of going to the college, my money is going to provide mosquito nets that prevent the spread of malaria. It’s providing deworming pills to school-age children that will cure painful, chronic parasitic infections that can keep children from attending school and have negative effects on their long-term development.

I’m not writing this article to brag about doing a good thing. I’m writing it in hopes that other people will join me.

With 94% of its members donating, the Class of 2012 raised over $15,000 for CMC as its senior gift. Other classes have regularly donated around $10,000 at the end of their times at college. If they can do it for the college, we can do it for people in need.

Our class, the Class of 2016, has 282 people in it. With an average donation of $35.46, we could raise over $10,000 for some of the most effective organizations in the world and have a real impact. It costs the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) between $5.15 and $6.30, depending on the location, to buy and distribute a mosquito net. That’s up to 1,941 mosquito nets.

On average, every $2,838 given to AMF will save a life. What’s more, each net we give out could prevent a case of malaria or even save a child’s life.

Think about that.

The groups I’ve already mentioned aren’t the only options to donate to, of course. With so many charities out there, how do you decide which to give to? GiveWell and Giving What We Can, two respected organizations in the effective altruism movement that put a great deal of research into measuring charities’ effectiveness, each rank AMF and SCI as the top two most-effective charities in the world. In case neither of those speak to you, GiveWell lists six other highly-effective charities, including GiveDirectly, a program that directly transfers cash to some of the world’s poorest families. There are other ways of evaluating effective programs as well. All I ask is that you think critically about where your money can make a difference.

For many of us, part of the reason to give to CMC is the feeling of “giving back” to a place that has given us so much over the years. Luckily, effective giving can be a win-win for the world and for CMC. When you think about it, 99% of the senior class donating to highly-effective charities can do so much more for CMC than our dollars would. Picture what it would mean if instead of donating $10,000-plus to CMC, the graduating class used that money—$35.46 each on average—to cure thousands of children of schistosomiasis or prevent hundreds of cases of malaria. Imagine what that would say about our student body.

It’s possible to give back and make a difference at the same time. For these organizations, even a few dollars can have a real impact.

Join me in giving at https://secure.givewell.org/donate-online. You might just save a life.

Note: If you choose to donate, please dedicate it to Claremont McKenna College at the bottom of the page and fill out the form at http://goo.gl/forms/MvRPsNMavA so we can keep track of how many people have given.