Doing Good Better by Dr. William MacAskill

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Gotham Books in exchange for my honest review.

Doing good for others.

There is a sense of joy when we help others. Seeing someone who needs aid and then coming to their aid is one of the things that make us human.

We should not enjoy seeing others suffer so there is part of us that would like to alleviate that suffering. In Doing Good Better, Dr. MacAskill points to this altruistic sensation as a way to make a difference.

Yet, some go about attempting to make a difference but do so poorly. They may give to a charity that spends much more on overhead and compensation than it does for the cause it promotes. Other charities are effective at using their funds but promote a cause that is very ineffective at solving the observed problem.

Dr. MacAskill goes into some detail on how to accurately determine which causes are effective and which causes are not. He shows that often times people will select a charity based on a “watchdog” rating but fail to seek further information on the charity. A rating is not bad but it only rates on certain criteria, most often financial distribution.

For example, let us say that a charity might give 90% of its charitable donations to help dental problems in a third-world country and not to compensation for management. That is a very financially proper means of operating. However, what if 90% of the donations are going to dental problems that arise due to poor water conditions? If the water condition improved, the dental problems would lessen.

If the example given, Dr. MacAskill’s analysis would not give that charity a great rating because they could have a greater impact were the charity to look deeper; the effectiveness is not as powerful as it could be. While my example is quite simple, hopefully the point is made.

Thus, this book really challenges the reader to seek means of making a difference that effectively makes a difference. Some of the text may be hard to read in terms of its message but it is a message worth reading.


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