Does effective altruism drive private cross-border aid? A qualitative study of American donors to grassroots INGOs

Susan Appe, Ayelet Oreg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Given the multitude of outlets to which individuals can give their time and money, why do Americans donate to international causes? This research ties into larger discussions about the changes in the aid architecture and the role of private aid in particular. The contributions of the article are twofold. First, we seek to better understand how certain individual donors come to give to international development aid. Second, we discern altruistic motivations and behaviours attached to this giving and to what extent elements of effective altruism might explain them. Effective altruism emphasises rational and moral decision-making prior to donating in order to judge a donation’s cost-effectiveness–that is, to ensure that the effect of a donation is maximised. We use qualitative data from over 50 interviews with individual donors who give overseas across dozens of grassroots international nongovernmental organisations, participant observation, organisational archival documents and social media content. We find that donors who give to international causes give in response to needs overseas, as effective altruism would suggest. However, the ways in which they experience and calculate needs overseas are distinct from the cause prioritisation proposed by effective altruists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2841-2862
Number of pages22
JournalThird World Quarterly
Volume42
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Global South Ltd.

Keywords

  • GINGOs
  • Giving overseas
  • aid generosity
  • effective altruism
  • grassroots INGOs
  • philanthropy
  • private aid

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